Verdigris Deep is a novel by Frances Hardinge. Following three young children, her narration tells the story of what would happen if everyone’s wishes came true – even if they didn’t know what they were wishing for.
Desperate for change for a bus ride home, Ryan and his friends – Josh and Chelle – end up raiding an old well in order to find some coins. Only they have no idea what they have let themselves in for. There is an old goddess down the well – and now she has three servants who must help grant people’s wishes in order for their lives to continue as normal.
While Chelle can spout the wisher’s thoughts when they are in a close enough range and Josh seems to have the ability to control anything metal, Ryan must come to terms with the fact he has been given a second sight, a way to view the world in a way no one else can.
But the powers – while they begin as being fun and cool – soon turn deadly as the three realise there is another element to the wishes. The people casting the coins down the well have secret desires, making wishes they do not truly mean. Dangerous and deadly things begin to happen to those they have tried to help and Ryan realises they are in way over their heads in this. But it is too late – the idea of the power has taken Josh and it soon becomes clear he can no longer be trusted and that he would do anything to keep hold of his gifts.
A tale of realising hero-worship isn’t necessarily a good thing, Hardinge creates deep and meaningful characters, despite their tender ages. The fear of the powers is written effectively from a child’s perspective, yet there is nothing childish about the way the story is portrayed. The powers are interesting and unique rather than just being a general skill such as mind-reading as a whole. Indeed, the whole concept about the darker side to people’s true desires has a chilling element to it; what if what we wished did come true?
The book, while being an easy read for an adult, is engaging and humorous throughout. The characters are likeable and enough intrigue and mystery is created early on in the book that you want to keep reading, even without knowing where it will lead. It contains strong messages about seeing beyond what is on the surface of both a person and their relationships – not just to other humans but to the world in general. Ryan always liked looking at the world upside down – until he truly knew what it meant to see things in a different light.
Full of wonder and wit, the book was certainly enough to make me want to see what other books Hardinge has written. If other worlds can be created in the way this one was, then it will certainly be an interesting read. A definite recommendation from here, especially if you find yourself wishing for things in life.