cover image The Deep & Dark Blue

The Deep & Dark Blue

Niki Smith. Little, Brown, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-48598-2

With capable worldbuilding and a positive look at transgender identity, Smith’s debut middle grade novel is likely to win over young fans of queer fantasy. Twins Hawke and Grayson are the grandchildren of the patriarch of House Sunderlay, a kingdom in a vaguely medieval world with a weaving-based origin story. Central to society is the Communion of Blue, a magical all-female monastic order. When one of the Sunderlay cousins stages a coup and captures the rightful heir to the throne, cousin Reyden, the twins flee for their lives. They find the perfect cover in the Communion as young initiates, where they go by “Hanna” and “Grayce.” Respectively, they study weaponless self-defense, guardianship, and how to spin the sacred blue “threads of the world,” while pondering justice and a return home. In doing so, their paths diverge: Hawke heeds a call to leadership, while Grayce discovers “This isn’t a disguise... It’s who I am.” Smith’s anime-inspired illustrations are smooth and beautifully costumed, with an open, cartoon expressiveness. If her universe doesn’t feel entirely original, it is nonetheless carefully considered, and young readers will enjoy inhabiting it. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Charlie Olsen, InkWell Management. (Jan.) [/em]