A little over a week ago, the Quill Inkers team went along to Maria Lewis’ book launch for The Witch Who Courted Death. While I, personally, cannot wait to sink my teeth into that book (once I buy a copy. I know, I’m slack), I did want to write a review on one of her books that I have read. So, without further adieu, here are some thoughts on Maria Lewis’ It Came From The Deep.
It Came From The Deep is a quasi-horror/crime thriller/urban fantasy/romance story based in a fictional town somewhere along the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. It follows the story of Kaia Craig, aspiring iron woman who has just come off of the worst year of her life (and it’s a real doozy), and Amos, a dark and mysterious aquatic humanoid who saves Kaia from being murdered in a lake. Yeah, the setup is intense.
One of the best ways to describe it is The Little Mermaid but reversed, in that an attractive female finds an equally-if-not-more-attractive male who also happens to come from the ocean and have a fish’s tail. However, the story isn’t about Amos. Its central focus is Kaia, and all of the ways she’s rebounding from being blamed for killing a girl (oop spoilers), being broken up with by the only person she’s ever been in a relationship with, that person taking the side of the dead girl’s family, having an attempt on her life and still somehow persisting through everything. Sure, it’s a novel with romantic undertones but the romance is only a small part in processing everything else. It’s a novel about a girl with real struggles overcoming them in somewhat fantastical but ultimately still very real ways.
What’s even more admirable is that in the (slightly under) 450 pages that Lewis works with, she manages to insert enough humour and lightheartedness to make reading about Kaia’s traumatic life really fun. Scenes like her blind date and characters like Cabby inject energy and a sense of fun back into the narrative. Not to mention that Cabby is both very African and very lesbian, which makes her so much more enjoyable to read. I feel like a broken record screaming representation into the void but it is honestly so important, and Lewis really pays a lot of attention to it in all of her work. And it goes further than just dropping heritage and sexuality – both of those things become very key turning points in the story. Cabby knows of mermaid-esque stories from her own background whilst her and Kaia are researching mermaid stories, and her relationship with one of the girls from the surf club ends up being the key to unlocking the mystery of Amos by setting Kaia up with her FWB’s brother.
Finally, I remember Lewis saying at the Witch Who Courted Death event that she ended up self-publishing It Came From The Deep because publishing houses didn’t want to pick it up. It didn’t fit in with what they were looking for, but it got such a good reception from her fans online that she made it a physical copy. Personally, I was surprised. Mermaids have always been a huge part of Australian popular culture and urban fantasy, with shows like H2O; Just Add Water and new, Australia-first Netflix series Tidelands that when I heard that, it honestly surprised me. She also mentioned that urban fantasy seems to happen in about three places around the world; London and New York. I can’t remember the other place off the top of my head. However, if you look at local fairy tales and stories about monsters there is always going to be a dialogue of urban fantasy, and I think by putting It Came From The Deep up in the Gold Coast it sits perfectly in this worldwide conversation about mermaids and mermen.
All in all, I absolutely loved It Came From The Deep. It’s a spunky yet very emotionally driven story that really speaks to the need for strong female protagonists and dealing with shit, and it’s framed by this sexy sexy aquatic humanoid. All in all, a great investment for the reader interested in Australian urban fantasy.