My first 2024 ARC! And I actually read it on time. Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan is a book I requested solely because the cover was positively gorgeous. In reading the back cover copy, it didn’t seem my usual cup of tea (I don’t read much urban fantasy these days). Starting it, I feared I was right, as I struggled at the beginning. (Mostly because I forced myself to start this book instead of reading what I wanted, because I was determined to not be late on my first 2024 ARC. I may reevaluate that approach, going forward.)
I’m so glad Fathomfolk proved me wrong and I stuck with it. I ended up being late to work (twice!) coming back from my lunch break, because I couldn’t stop reading. Now, it’s a book I’d highly recommend, for it’s unflinching politics, immersive worldbuilding and characters you’ll feel passionate about (hating, loving or otherwise).
An ARC copy was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Publisher: Orbit Books | Release Date: February 2024 | Pages: 448
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: Print | Source: ARC
But in the semi-flooded city, humans are, quite literally, on peering down from skyscrapers and aerial walkways on the fathomfolk — sirens, seawitches, kelpies and kappas—who live in the polluted waters below.
For half-siren Mira, promotion to captain of the border guard means an opportunity to reform. At last, she has the ear of the city council and a chance to lift the repressive laws that restrict fathomfolk at every turn. But if earning the trust and respect of her human colleagues wasn’t hard enough, everything Mira has worked towards is put in jeopardy when a water dragon is exiled to the city.
New arrival Nami is an aristocratic water dragon with an opinion on everything. Frustrated by the lack of progress from Mira’s softly-softly approach in gaining equality, Nami throws her lot in with an anti-human extremist group, leaving Mira to find the headstrong youth before she makes everything worse.
And pulling strings behind everything is Cordelia, a second-generation sea-witch determined to do what she must to survive and see her family flourish, even if it means climbing over the bodies of her competitors. Her political game-playing and underground connections could disrupt everything Nami and Mira are fighting for.
When the extremists sabotage the annual boat race, violence erupts, as does the clampdown on fathomfolk rights. Even Nami realises her new friends are not what they seem. Both she and Mira must decide if the cost of change is worth it, or if Tiankawi should be left to drown.
- Characters and varied POV. I loved getting to read all the different POVs from our three POV characters. Mira’s was definitely my favorite (both POV and as a character). Nami was incredible in that I found her inspiring and frustrating and admirable all in equal measure. While Serena was a morally gray character I loved hating, but also admired.
- Amazing worldbuilding. I am FASCINATED by this world, especially the city of Tiankawi. I kept wishing I could see it on screen because it would be so gorgeous and so unique. (Though the descriptions here were vivid!)
- Mirroring politics. The politics within the plot and the worldbuilding were complex and intricate. Especially in how they mirrored so much of our world and how shit it can be; how unfair and unjust. Fathomfolk was a challenging, but also rewarding, read because of this.
- The beginning and the ending. The beginning is on me, because I forced myself to read a book instead of following my mood. So, it took me longer to get into than it would have otherwise. The ending because it broke me and was so unfair. WHY.
For me, Fathomfolk was a novel that had be absolutely ensnared by the second half. I read the final 150 pages in one sitting, the last 250 in two days. The ending broke me and had me almost sobbing in my bathtub. I am so excited to see the aftermath within the sequel, as there is so much to unpack! I highly recommend this for anyone who wants a vivid world, emotionally-charged characters and politics that make you want to change the way our world is in reality.
Thank you again to Orbit Books for the ARC! Fathomfolk releases on Tuesday, February 27th.