Dark Life - Kat Falls Dark Life, The Little Mermaid in reverse.Whether you believe climate change is man-made or not is immaterial, the point is it exists inside this book. Anyway, uniquely set “Under the Sea” in a starkly plausible dystopian future with a plot which delves deeper into this unsettling world. Unfortunately, I could’ve done without the tacked-on romance.Fish out of water, young Ariel Gemma meets Prince Eric Ty on her mission to find and join her long lost elder brother after they were separated in an orphanage years ago and is rumoured to be working in an underwater settlement. As a Topsider (a land resident) she’s blindly stumbling about unaware of the dangers of travelling alone. Ty becomes her guide as a lifelong subsea resident and as the only teenager in the still growing marine community he’s eager to spend time with someone his own age by showing her around his world. We learn Earth is in a warm stage; icecaps have melted, sea levels have risen and large swathes of low-lying land are underwater. Space is limited. Privacy is a luxury no one can afford until the advent of Liquigen bringing with it the ability to breathe underwater and withstand the pressure, and the development of underwater settlements which farm much needed food for those left on land. One problem, the prejudiced attitudes towards those who’ve chosen this new lifestyle. Rumours abound about what living down there does to you. People believe prolonged submergence will lead to the development of abnormal abilities and have labelled people with them Dark Life, though no one has actually owned up to having these powers. On top of this, pirates are plaguing supply vessels to and from land putting underwater residents on edge. The world-building is amazing. The exotic fish, the fear of sharks, the inventive underwater architecture, bubble fences etc. It’s wonderfully imaginative.I have one bone to pick with Dark Life and it revolves around the topics of gender and romance.“Ty collected all of it himself.” ~ page 66 The protagonist is male? This gender reveal isn’t intentional. It plays no part in the plot. I had no idea. I assumed Ty was female and we were in for a rare treat. Two girls join up for a death-defying adventure. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ty was originally female and the author was instructed to change that and make him “Kiss the Girl” in order to make this baby more marketable.Ty didn’t feel male. His interaction with Gemma didn’t say male-female relationship. Some effort was made later to masculinise Ty but I didn’t fully believe it. Ty’s physical description beyond “I sparkle” (don’t worry there’s a perfectly legitimate reason for it -eating lots of luminescent fish) is also lacking.These “Poor Unfortunate Souls” should not be forced together. They had little chemistry. I didn't like it. They were friends, we didn't need more.So, terrific worldbuilding, not the best conspiracy plot but it successfully drew us further into this intriguing future scenario. Thin characters. Beyond her mission there isn’t much to Gemma other than her fascination with and envy of Ty’s life compared to her cramped packed-like-sardines love-deprived existence on land. Ty is more fleshed out as a collector of the artifacts he finds, with hopes and dreams.If Liquigen is invented...Indian Ocean here I come! Warm waters for me. Not Atlantic or Pacific –positively arctic in comparison. Although I am a bit claustrophobic. Hmm. I'll give this series another shot, hoping the characters are better developed with the excellent world-building out of the way.