The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah (Light The Abyss #1)
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: The Light At The Bottom Of The World
Summary: At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.
Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.
When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.
Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: The Light At The Bottom Of The World is YA Sci-Fi debut that will leave you with a sense of wonder and is a delightful immersive adventure! Set in a future underwater, Leyla is a quest to reunite with her father! Layered politics, unique world building, and mystery are just some of the many things to expect from Shah’s wonderful debut!
I’d been looking forward to this book for over a year because the concept sounded fascinating, so of course that meant I had to add it to the TBR! Underwater society, the turn of the century, sub races, and government conspiracies? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
16-year old Leyla McQueen is a dedicated sub racer and she’s on a mission! Set in Great Britain in the year 2099 nearing the end of the century, people for the most part have adjusted to life underwater. However, up above on the surface the water levels continue to rise, there’s devastating storms, and back underwater there’s a sickness that’s spreading.
Leyla’s father is accused of spreading the illness known as Seasickness, but she knows he’s innocent! So, when Leyla’s chosen to compete in the London Marathon, she hopes her wish can accomplish one thing: Bringing her father home!
When her wish doesn’t go exactly as planned, she decides to seek out answers herself, but luckily she’s not alone! With her friends Theo & Tabby, her grandfather, and a mysterious new companion, Leyla is on a race against time traveling the dangerous waters in her submersible to find her father!
Shah’s writing is atmospheric and thought-provoking. Not only does she beautifully lay out this futuristic setting of an underwater society, but she weaves in the unique technology, habitat/environmental layers, and complex politics that come with it.
Told through a first-person POV you really get inside Leyla’s head and learn more about her past and what I really appreciated, was how much you learn about the world through her eyes! The world itself is layered subtly where your getting this clear picture of the underwater world and the politics, setting, and character development building with each chapter!
Leyla is a wonderful main character and I loved following her journey! She’s dedicated to racing, worries about her father, and is experiencing the world outside London for the first time. She’s hopeful, unwavering, and just has a wonderful spirit!
“Hope is all I have right now; it’s as unending as the oceans―and I must hold on to it…” (23).
In terms of representation this novel centers around our main protagonist and her family who’re Pashtun/Afghan Muslim! (Also, this book is #OwnVoices for British Muslim rep!)
Throughout the novel, Leyla grows in ways that test her knowledge of the world she thought she knew. Following her perspective, you get a layered look at the politics, setting, and government established in underwater Great Britain.
The story moves at such a great pace where at the end of each chapter, your left with so many questions and trying to piece the mystery together!
Leyla’s joined by her dog Jojo, an internal sub navigator who’s presented as Oscar Wilde, and Ari, a family friend who’s been tasked with looking after Leyla by her grandfather! What stands out as the story progresses are the really distinct changes to their dynamic as it shifts & grows in subtle ways. I loved how Shah explored their enemies to friends (maybe lovers?) dynamic and had so many surprises for them along the way!
I don’t want to get into it too much, because you really have to read it for yourself, but Leyla & Ari’s dynamic was developed in a really great way! They start out not really liking each other, but throughout their adventure together, what the dynamic is rooted in is trust! Trust within themselves and with each other! Its a wonderful message that layered itself into the story and adds so much to their friendship/dynamic!
The plot twists in this book were just SO good and made me really think about the world itself and what our characters have been tricked into believing!
A good adventure isn’t without a few bumps along the road for our duo! There’s the mysterious government security known as Blackwatch, a mysterious captain named Sebastian, and monsters (Arthropoids) that lurk within the waters!
I really loved how Shah beautifully explored and delved into the element of nostalgia, whether its for characters that Leyla notices are obsessed with the Old World, groups known as the Old World Heritage Society, even people’s fascination with collecting Old World objects. In this speculative fiction future, it created this sense longing and promise for what’s ahead! That was a beautiful message I picked up on while reading and really appreciated it.
There’s also a message woven in about family! Leyla herself never admits it too often, but she is lonely. She misses the time when she could spend the holidays at home with her parents and with her mission to find her father, she hopes she can regain that loss along the way. Friendship itself is also anchors itself as an important familial unit for Leyla and it’ll be great to see how those important themes are explored in the sequel!
The setting itself is layered with beautiful imagery and alongside Shah’s great writing, your given a sense of wanderlust that makes the world dazzle and make you wish you could go on your own underwater adventure too!
Now onto my critique: Its really just boils down to the writing! Though I really love (and will absolutely defend) the beauty of first person POVs, I felt at least for this first novel (for me personally) there were something about its presentation that made it difficult to fully connect with the plot at some points (mainly during Leyla’s journey as she traveled the oceans, looking for her father). As I read, I noticed there was a big focus to the emotion and emotional layers of the story through Leyla’s perspective.
With the way it was presented, the perspective made certain plot points feel glossed over. Because we’re in Leyla’s head, we really get an in-depth look at her as a character, which is great, BUT I did find at points there was a bit too much internal description of her thoughts/emotions. From my perspective, it took away from some of the exposition and execution of plot points. However, I really loved Shah’s writing style, its so beautiful and I definitely found myself writing down a lot of wonderful quotes!
After that ending I can’t wait to see what happens next in the sequel! I’m really looking forward to seeing whats next for Leyla’s journey!
The Light At The Bottom Of The World is a thought-provoking YA Sci-Fi that features a sub racer on a mission to save her father! With beautiful writing, a great cast of characters, plot twists, mystery, and a wonderfully immersive setting, you don’t want to miss London Shah’s debut!
Hey everyone, just wanted to share that yesterday I posted my author interview with Isabel Ibañez whose releasing her 2020 debut, Woven In Moonlight, in just a couple months! It would mean the world if you gave it a read, we talk about her inspiration, main character, and tons of different elements of her book she’s looking forward to sharing with readers! There’s also an awesome pre-order campaign I share in the post too! Hope you can check it out! 🌙✨💞