Rick Riordan’s latest middle-school adaptation of mythology, Daughter of the Deep is a fast-paced, ocean-spanning tale, featuring protagonist Ana Dakkar. Taking inspiration from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the novel features many of Captain Nemo’s inventions while still remaining engaging to a modern audience.
Daughter of the Deep’s strong point—the witty dialogue accentuated by a diverse and vivid cast—addresses 20,000 Leagues’ weaknesses. Although 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a perfect adventure novel, backed with such thorough explanations that it seems believable, the story remains superficially interesting. Pierre Aronnax’s descriptions of his adventures are certainly thrilling, but the book ultimately fails to invest the readers personally in the ongoing story. A small cast of characters adds to these detriments. The only characters in the story are Aronnax, a scientist of marine biology; Conseil, Aronnax’s companion; Ned Land, a short-tempered harpoonist; and Captain Nemo, the withdrawn and sullen commander of the Nautilus.
But what 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lacks in characterization, it makes up for with a series of wild explorations. From ancient volcanoes and submerged cities to underwater hunting expeditions and glacial exploration, the novel doesn’t hesitate to describe adventures that remain fantastical even over a hundred and fifty years later. Daughter of the Deep, however, stays true to Rick Riordan’s conflict-centric writing style, moving quickly between each of the challenges Ana faces. There’s no shortage to the trouble she finds herself in, ranging from breaking a code of whale song to outwitting a hostile submarine in a marine battle.
If anything, Daughter of the Deep only showcases the versatility of Rick Riordan’s writing. The story manages to feature several elements from The Mysterious Island, which explores in-depth Captain Nemo’s past. Even so, the story is in no way reliant on Verne’s earlier storytelling, even going so far as to adapt Nemo’s technology to modern-day equivalents. But even so, comprehensive explanations accompany every mention of futuristic technology, as seen in this excerpt from page 189:
“Super-cavitation…?” … I start to hum “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in my head, but I’m pretty sure that’s a different concept.
“Cav-drive is next level propulsion,” Nelinha explains. “The world’s best navies are researching it now, but no one has gotten it to work yet. You create a sheath of air around the nose of the sub, so you have zero water resistance. Then BANG. You hit the engine and… well, in theory you could shoot across the ocean at any depth at extreme velocity, more like a bullet than a boat.”
Even though the book does an excellent job of keeping readers engaged and entertained throughout each of the short chapters, the occasional bout of odd phrasing often throws off the rhythm of the book. Missed contractions are present every few chapters, just often enough that most readers will notice the issue as it continues to recur.
Overall, both books have their flaws and areas where they set themselves apart. 20,000 Leagues may be hard to follow due to overly complicated phrasing, but it makes up for it with unique, if impersonal descriptions of exotic locations. Daughter of the Deep is better suited for middle-schoolers, with a wry main character and non-stop action. And while neither book is superior, both are most definitely worth reading.
Elliott is a prolific reader of various genres
who is more than happy to share his opinions on books.
In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, and running.
He is a 9th-grade student in Charlotte, NC.
A NOTE FROM ELLIOTT
The title, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, was originally mistranslated. Since then, it’s been discovered that 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas refers to the fact that Captain Nemo travels a total of 20,000 leagues, or 60,000 miles, through the world’s oceans over the course of the eponymous book. If Captain Nemo had indeed dived to a depth of 60,000 miles, as the book seems to suggest, he would have broken through the other side of the earth after the first 8,000 miles, passed the Karman line after another 62, and then found himself in deep space, roughly 52,000 miles above the earth.