Hayley’s Review of “Vicious Depths” by Madeline Stanford

By: Hayley Green

Vicious Depths by Madeline Stanford is a wonderful YA dystopian fantasy novel. The ideas of heaven, hell, and purgatory are uniquely turned on their heads in the world Stanford created.

Everyone is given a red-test score when they die, doled out by the rulers of the Azure. These rulers are called the Senatus, and they have a mission for a girl named Alex Muir. With a red-test score of 50, Alex is one point away from joining the Azure. In order to do so, she must be sent to the Depths and spy on the ruler of the underworld, Samuel, to find incriminating evidence for the Senatus.

The more she gets accustomed the depths, the more she likes it. She finds friends among the vivacious Megan and the soft-spoken Seren, the trusting Isaac, moody Patrick, and loving Everett. She also has a mutual interest in the mysterious and notorious Flynn Cooper, the only person immune to the Inflamers and the only person with a red test score over 40 to join the elite Ember Circle that rule the depths.

The relationships and characters in this book are well thought out and believable, the plot has twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and the world she created is so real the images of it stuck with me years after I first read it.

I read Vicious Depths when I was a freshman in high school. This was back when it was called Like Hell on Wattpad. Flynn stuck in my head as such a significant character, that the current project I am working on has a character named Flynn, too.

With everything from knife fights, murder, lies and intrigue, along with a dash of romance, this first book in the trilogy captured my attention. Some might say it was slow to start, but it wasn’t in my opinion. Besides, Alex was relatable to me, with her sarcastic wit and do-gooder attitude. She always seemed to end up in the middle of the trouble.

Stanford did a wonderful job with this trilogy. For being self-published, the editing is impeccable. It does have the British spelling and single quote marks around dialogue, but that is easily overlooked in the grand scheme of things because the story is that good.

Look out for my review of the second book in the trilogy, Rising Depths.

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