Buy This Book
Other books you may enjoy

If I’ve learned anything by watching human interactions, it’s that they’re always angry at the person they feel they love. It’s easier to feel anger than love. Love makes people sick. Anger just consumes you so you think you’re not feeling anything,Thalia. The Vicious Deep

The Vicious Deep

The Vicious Deep #1

by Zoraida Cordova
AR Test

At A Glance
Interest Level

Reading Level
Number of Pages

One crashing wave and Tristan Hart was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth. 

His best friend Layla is convinced something is wrong. But how can he explain that he can sense emotions like never before? How can he explain he’s the heir to a kingdom he never knew existed? That he’s suddenly a pawn in a battle as ancient as the gods? Something happened to him in those three days. He was claimed by the sea . . . and now it wants him back. 

The Vicious Deep’s protagonist Tristan is an interesting if somewhat self-centered character who doesn’t consider the long-term consequence of his actions and is hyper-aware of his sexuality, even in difficult situations. For example, when Tristan discovers he is half-human and half-merman, one of his first thoughts is what happens to his penis when he’s a merman. In addition, Tristan believes that his best friend Layla is the only girl for him, but that doesn’t stop him from appreciating other girls and crudely commenting on his sexual desires. Teens will connect with Tristan because he’s not a typical hero; instead, he is a teenage boy who struggles to accept the changes in his life. For instance, though the world’s fate is in Tristan’s hands, he is slow to take action and has a hard time coming up with a plan to complete his mission of finding the oracle.  

When Tristan travels to the floating island of the Sea King, he learns about the merfolk’s imperfect world. Much like the human world, the merfolk’s world is full of problems. Because Tristan did not grow up in the merworld, his grandfather, the Sea King, decides to have a competition to see who will become the next ruler. The Sea King breaks a trident into three pieces and eligible princes must find the pieces in order to become the next heir to the throne. While the merworld’s island is beautiful and has some surprising aspects, Tristan isn’t at the island long enough for readers to understand the merworld. 

Once Tristan returns to New York City, he relies on the help of two merpeople—Kurt and Thaila. Kurt’s serious nature is contrasted by Thaila’s curious and enthusiastic behavior. Readers will enjoy seeing a typical New York high school from the merpeople’s perspective. In addition, Kurt and Thaila help Tristan—and the reader—understand the merworld’s political structure and problems.  

The Vicious Deep’s conclusion has some action-packed scenes; however, the conclusion would have had more impact if some scenes were cut out. It’s unbelievable that Tristan, Kurt, and Thaila would spend time at the high school and even go to swim practice when evil creatures keep appearing in New York. In addition, the high school scenes reinforce the idea that Tristan is a “man-slut” who had sexual encounters with several girls whose names he can’t even remember.  

Readers who love mermaid books will enjoy watching Tristan learn about the merworld even though he lacks heroic qualities. Tristan’s interactions with the merpeople are interesting and often suspenseful. The large cast of characters gives readers a peek into the merworld, which will leave readers with a sense of wonder and fear. While Tristan finds one piece of the trident, readers will have to read the second book in the series, The Savage Blue, to see if Tristan has the bravery and leadership qualities to become the next Sea King. Readers who love books with rich world-building should also read the Starcrossed Trilogy by Josephine Angelini. 

Sexual Content 

  • During a storm, Tristan jumps into the ocean to save someone, but he gets swept away. When his friend, Layla, finds him in the ocean, she jumps in and starts mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. However, Tristian is not dead. He presses “her down against me. I touch my tongue against hers and taste the salt on her bottom lip.” Layla hits him.  
  • Tristan goes to a party with his girlfriend, Maddie. After she confesses her love, Tristan goes and kisses another girl. Maddie breaks up with him.  
  • Tristan thinks about his mom reading fairy tales to him. “Sometimes I’d tell her she and Dad should’ve tried for a daughter, and then I realized I was telling my parents to keep having sex.” 
  • After the storm, Layla goes into Tristan’s room to check on him. He wakes up to find Layla watching him. Tristian takes “an extra pillow and uses it as a buffer between my erection and the world.”  
  • One of Tristan’s friends likes to “smack girls on their asses.” 
  • When Tristan turns into a merman, he thinks, “I wonder where my feet go? I wonder where my dick goes!” He makes several references to this. 
  • When Tristan goes to his class, his teacher is wearing a dress “that fits every single curve.” When she talks to him, Tristan “start[s] to get an erection.”  
  • When Layla goes in front of the King of the Seas, someone asks her, “Do you have anything to offer the king, besides your virtue?” 
  • Tristan has a reputation as a man-slut. At one point, he thinks back to when he was thirteen and “put my hand under Catherine Valdorama’s bikini top.”  
  • Thaila, Tristan’s mermaid friend, meets a human boy named Ryan. While at school, Ryan “gets down on his knees, and kisses Thalia on her sweet full mouth. . . Thalia rests her hands around Ryan’s face, bringing him in, and neither of them seems to notice the crowds.” Afterwards, they kiss several more times.  
  • Tristan and his ex-girlfriend are talking and she states, “I blew you.”  
  • Because of strange mermaid magic, the students at Tristan’s school begin making out and “grinding against each other.” As Tristan walks through the hall, he meets two angry girls he hooked up with. He is surprised by their anger.  
  • Tristan transforms into a merman and takes Layla out into the ocean. “I part my lips and lean down at the same time she lifts her face up. The force of her mouth on mine pushes us back. . . She runs her hands all along my arms, and I trace the soft length of her spine.” Layla pushes Tristan away and is upset because she thinks Tristan is using magic to seduce her. 


  • While in the merworld, Layla challenges Elias, a merman, to a swimming contest. After she wins, Elias goes after Layla, and Tristan jumps in. “I have my arms around him. One under the right arm and one over his left shoulder. I squeeze him and he pushes hard against me, so we sink into the water. . . We’re locked in a wrestler’s grip, forearm to forearm.” Suddenly, Elias’s “grip loosens, and his eyes roll back into his head.” He sinks into the ocean and dies. 
  • Tristan’s grandfather talks about his sister, Nieve. His grandfather says, “When we were young, she killed my mother’s newest babe out of jealousy. She was banished. . . When Father made me king in her stead as eldest, she killed him.”  
  • While outside the school, creatures called merrows attack. “The tallest one has the head of a hammerhead shark on the body of a human.” The creature’s “eyes are dirty yellow. His permanent smile reveals bloody gums. He raises his fist in the air and brings them down hard on the ground, shaking the field right under me. I swing and catch him on the side, and he winces. . .Layla runs around us as she brings the dagger down through his back.” 
  • One creature tries to run, but “the guys let their arrows fly up at the fence . . . He charges at me [Tristan] . . .I punch him with all my strength, my knuckles come away bloody from the sharp scales on his cheekbones. I slash my dagger out with both hands, but he jumps back from every swing.” Kurt sends an arrow right through the creature’s throat, saving Tristan. The scene is described over five pages.  
  • During the fight, Layla is injured when a creature sprays her with poisonous needles. Tristan takes his “dagger, and as gently as I can, rip the thin cotton of her T-shirt. The needles go right through it, and I can’t take the shirt off without hurting her. . . Thalia is pulling out the spikes and sobbing at the same time.” Layla would have died, but magic saves her life.  
  • A merrow with the head of a shark bites a boy. “A heap of tattered bloody clothes. . . The boy hits the ground with a wet thump. The corners of his lips are white and cracked. His eyes open, staring at the sky. . . Down where the boy’s leg used to be is a mess of sand and bone and loose skin.” The boy dies. 
  • Tristan learns that vampires secretly exist in the human world. The vampires “might bite, but they don’t kill. Vampire killings are easy to find, because after they feed on human blood they’re basically euphoric and are pretty sloppy about cleaning up the bodies.” 
  • Tristan and his friends go to a party. While at a party, a window shatters, and “kids race past us out of the house. . . Outside, anyone who couldn’t run away is hiding behind lawn chairs, bushes, and garbage cans. . . Princess Violet is lying with her hand against her chest. There’s a shard of glass sticking out of it. The girl’s green eyes are full of tears.” 
  • The merrows appear. “Kurt wrestles with a hammerhead merrow who looks like nothing but sinewy strength.” One of Tristan’s friends kills a merrow with a baseball bat. “Their rotting flesh and black blood cover the ground.” 
  • Tristan looks up and sees “the yellow-scaled merrow wrestles with someone on the balcony. . . I can only hear the loud snap of a neck. . . The heave of the body over the merrow’s head. He throws the limp body over the balcony.” Tristan’s friend, Ryan, dies. 
  • When a merrow goes after Maddie, Tristan’s ex-girlfriend, Tristan throws his dagger, and “it pierces the merrow’s spine. The merrow stumbles once, deteriorating into mush as he does.” The full battle occurs over six pages.  
  • While in Central Park with Gwen (a mermaid engaged to Elias), Elias attacks her. “Elias’s hand holds her at the neck. Her pale fingers hold his wrist. . . Gwen kicks at the air as he raises her up with one arm.”  
  • Tristan mocks Elias and he “tosses Gwen to the side. . . Elias charges at me, all arms and bare chest . . . Now with Elias’s face bloody and tender under my fist, I don’t feel any pity for him. . . Elias stops moving. I can feel his body go limp under me.”  
  • As Tristan and Elias fight, Gwen throws a dagger at Elias. “Then Elias goes stiff. He falls on top of me. . . He lands sideways with my dagger in his back. Smoke fumes around the golden hilt.” The scene is described over four pages. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • After being pulled out of the ocean, Tristan is taken to the hospital and given sedatives.  
  • There are many references to people drinking alcohol. For example, at dinner, Tristan sees his parents “sip on red wine, and Coach Bellini, whose mustache is tipped in beer foam.” 
  • Tristan usually doesn’t drink alcohol. Instead, “I nurse the same bottle the entire night and pretend like it’s always a new one.” 
  • At one point, Layla gets drunk.  
  • While in the merworld, Tristan drinks seaweed ale.  
  • Tristan convinces his friend, Ryan, to throw a party. When Tristan shows up, there is a keg and other alcohol for the teens to drink.  


  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes ass, damn, pissed, goddamn, fuck, holy crap, and shit.  
  • Ohmigod is used as an exclamation occasionally.  
  • There is some name-calling. Names include bastard, bitch, douche, dumbass, creeper, and jerk.


  • Tristan discovers that he is part human and part merman. He is a descendent of Triton, Son of Poseidon, god of the sea. 
  • In the story, most humans don’t know that they share their world with mermaids, fairies, vampires, and other mythical creatures.  
  • Tristan gets a tattoo with “ink that allows us to shift whenever we want. It is the blood of the abyss, primordial and, of course, painfully difficult to extract.” 
  • When Kurt and his sister come on land to help Tristan, they use a glamour. “It’s a light spell to tone down our natural colors. We are no longer achingly beautiful. Now we’re just exceptionally beautiful.” 
  • One of Tristan’s teachers is a seer. “She can see the future, but only when she’s entranced in the words of others. For instance, when she had us read those poems, she was probably seeing at the same time.”  
  • Kurt and Thalia have the power to “shift into fish form.” Thalia can also speak to her sea horses. 
  • The creatures that attack Tristan and his friends are merrows. “Sometimes a mermaid gives birth to a deformed child, not fully human or mer-kin. It has no reason, no sense of speech.” One Sea King decided that “merrows born at court would be killed instantly. King Karonos thought it was too cruel, so instead he had a prison built for them . . .”

Spiritual Content 

  • While having a bad dream, Tristan prays “to every god that has ever or will ever exist that is not a shark.” 
  • When Tristan asks if there is a mermaid heaven, his friend Kurt says, “We are of the sea, and to the sea we return. An ancient merman like the king, would become a great coral reef, no matter what the climate. Someone like me, like my parents, would turn to surf.”  
  • Tristan’s friend Ryan reveals that he has only had sex with one girl. He begs them not to tell anyone. Ryan says, “I don’t even know what god you pray to, but swear on him, please.”  
  • When Tristan speaks to an old and ugly oracle, he prays “to whatever gods are out there” that the oracle isn’t trying to seduce him. 
Other books you may enjoy

If I’ve learned anything by watching human interactions, it’s that they’re always angry at the person they feel they love. It’s easier to feel anger than love. Love makes people sick. Anger just consumes you so you think you’re not feeling anything,Thalia. The Vicious Deep

Latest Reviews