From one of fantasy’s most exciting new voices Eliza Chan comes a modern, myth-inflected story of revolution and magic set against the glittering, semi-submerged city of Tiankawi, perfect for fans of Jade City and The Bone Shard Daughter . Welcome to Tiankawi – shining pearl of human civilization and a safe haven for those fleeing civil unrest. Or at least, that’s how it first appears.
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.
Thank you Orbit Books for sending me a gorgeous ARC of Fathomfolk! If we had to rate a cover I’d give it five stars and it will garner a lot of attention!
I read Fathomfolk in six days, because there is a lot to unpack in that book!
First the fantasy world is very original and I saw it as a cross between fantasy, Asian mythology and dystopian!
The story takes place after a big war between humans and fathomfolk where the world is submerged. No more rivers or spring water but sea everywhere except in some places like the half-submerged city of Tiankawi. Under the fathomfolk terminology, you find real and fantastic creatures like sea dragons, kelpies, sea witches, sirens etc.
Second there is a lot of topics broached in this book. Politics first with a council, different Ministers. Immigration policies with many of the fathomfolk coming to seek refuge in Tiankawi. Xenophobia , racism and superiority of races as humans see fathomfolk as inferiors yet they fear their power and have to bridle them with devices worn at the wrist (pakalot). A lot of scheming too between powerful people to advance your own family. And add a rebel faction to the mix.
The story is also told from multiple point of view:
–Mira our half siren and captain of the chinthe, the waters/border guards. She has faced racism her whol life and has learned to grow a tough skin. Brave, generous and dutiful.
–Mina the newly arrived young aristocratic water dragon. She is outraged at human’s unfairness to the folk, impulsive and hot headed. She’ll soon be in cahoot with a group of rebels that will have her making very bad choices with dire consequences.
–Serena the wife of the kumiho’s captain, the city guard. She is plotting a lot to advance her family, always wanting more power, safety and riches.
–Cordelia, the sea witch. She is an octopus and makes bargain, stealing voices of sirens among other… does it ring a bell? 😉 I loved that hint at The Little Siren from Disney! Cordelia might have been the most interesting character!
And we also have an important side character: Kai. He is Mina’s older brother, a very powerful water dragon and ambassador in the city of Tiankawi.
All this had me needing some time to find my rhythm in the story and the first half was relatively slow but once I was in, I couldn’t stop!
The main trope is these characters fighting in their own way for more equality between fathomfolk and humans. Some fight with words and amending the law, others with direct confrontation coming at a high cost. Romance is somewhat added to the plot but it certainly doesn’t take center stage.
That book holds a lot of promises, even if the beginning was relatively slow and the last quarter of the book sees a lot of action and even drama!
If you love:
-complex world building;
-contemporary topics centered around xenophobia;
Then that book might be what you are looking for.
Thanks for reading.