*This review will contain spoilers!*
First things first I need to say a massive thank you to All Night Reads for accepting my request to review this book on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
'Hidden Deep' is the story of Ryann Carroll, (yep, Ryann with two N's) a girl who has just moved in with her grandmother in the woods on the outskirts of Mississippi following her mother and father's divorce after his affair. Ryann has been exploring the woods behind her new home, and after stumbling across a natural pool she can't resist jumping in to cool off on the hot summer day. However, when she resurfaces, the boy who saved her life ten years ago is stood there, watching her swimming, on her private land.
Now this to me would automatically set off alarm bells, but Ryann is one of those protagonists that doesn't really seem to question the events that are questioned by a reader. No matter how gorgeous and beautiful the man is that is watching you swim nearly naked, you don't walk off with him into the woods when he tells you he needs to talk to you. That's serial killer rule number one, surely? Or at least it's pretty high on the list.
However, Lad (yes, Lad. The names in this book are not a positive) seems like a genuinely nice guy: sweet and innocent in a way that teenage boys don't seem to be nowadays. So I can almost forgive her for her terrible decision, because she's lucky that he is a lovely person. But other than this first decision, her choices throughout the book leave a lot to be desired. When Ryann realises that things with Lad aren't progressing in quite the way that she hopes, and she feels dejected and friend-zoned, she decides that it'll be a brilliant idea to pretend to return feelings for another boy, Nox. It's not very fair of her to play with his emotions and to drag him along, and even the fact that she realises it was a bad idea and tries to stop the events later on in the book really doesn't make it any better. If you feel comfortable manipulating people like that, you're just not a very nice person.
However, this isn't just any old contemporary romance with a love triangle. 'Hidden Deep' is one of those books in which you're not quite sure what you're dealing with until you get told, but once you get told it just slaps you right in the face. This is how - for the first half of the novel - I was beyond convinced that I was reading a book about werewolves. Super attractive guy who lives in the wood, always has an extremely high body temperature, doesn't wear shoes or button up his shirt and has an affinity for jumping up trees? I don't know about you, but all of those facts scream werewolf right in my face.
Which meant it was actually a nice surprise for me when we eventually get told that Lad is an Elf. It should have been obvious, due to his close relationship with nature and the fact that his people live underneath a massive tree, but for some reason I just couldn't get past my preconceived notions of werewolves. I was pleased that the book dealt with Elves, because it's definitely a species that isn't explored as much as it could be in the YA genre, so it was nice to have a bit of variety spicing up life.
In all honesty, I hoped I was going to enjoy this book more than I did, so I did feel a bit deflated when I finished it. I could see what Amy Patrick was trying to do with the book - the battle between whether Lad was in love with Ryann, or in love with the idea of 'other', was an interesting moral conflict, even though it wasn't as well explored as it could have been - but I just didn't really enjoy it.
I will admit that the epilogue was extremely interesting: with the death of Lad's father and his promotion to king, there are a lot of possibilities about what can happen over the next two books, and the ongoing drama with the 'fan pods' being mind warping cults led by Dark Elves is also interesting, but the book wrapped up so well it doesn't really feel like it needs a sequel. I just feel like it was all coming together nicely at the end, so the sudden death of Lad's father is a not even subtle way to make an excuse to carry the series on.
If you're going to read this book, I'd suggest leaving it until nearer to the second installments release date, because I think it will be a lot easier to read when you know it's going somewhere. It just feels a bit incomplete with the sudden ending and the anticlimactic events occurring through.