Fathom by Cherie Priest
Author: Cherie Priest
Release Date: December 9, 2008
Dates Read: February 2011
The ageless water witch Arahab has been scheming for eons, gathering the means to awaken the great Leviathan. She aims to bring him and the old gods back to their former glory, caring little that their ascendance will also mean an end to the human race. However, awakening the Leviathan is no small feat. In fact, Arahab can’t complete the ritual without human aid. Arahab’s first choice is José Gaspar, a notorious sea pirate from eighteenth-century Spain. But when the task proves too difficult for Gaspar, she must look elsewhere, biding her time until the 1930’s, when the ideal candidate shows up: a slightly deranged teenager named Bernice.
Bernice is sophisticated, torn from New York and forced to spend a miserable summer on Anna Maria Island, a tiny rock off the coast of Florida. She’s also been saddled with the companionship of her farm-raised cousin Nia. Eventually, Bernice’s disenchantment gives way to rage and she commits a deadly crime. When Nia won’t cover for Bernice, she turns on Nia, chasing her into the deadly coastal waves.
But the elementals have better ideas: the moment the girls go under, Bernice is commandeered for Arahab’s task force, and Nia is turned into a strange and powerful creature by a servant of the earth who doesn’t want to surrender his green fields and muddy plains—not yet, at least. Add in a hapless fire inspector who’s just trying to get his paperwork in order, a fire god whose neutrality has been called into question, and a bizarre religious cult, and rural Florida doesn’t seem quite so sleepy anymore.
With Fathom, Cherie Priest brings her masterful writing and unforgettable characterization to the realm of near-contemporary rural fantasy. The result is fast-paced, stunning, and quite unlike anything you’ve ever read.
This novel was quite unlike anything I’ve read before. Cherie Priest quickly became one of my favorite authors with her Clockwork Century series. I breezed through Boneshaker, Clementine and Dreadnought, and loved them all. That said, this work by Priest is an entirely different beast from those novels. However, it is worth mentioning that it is still undeniably Priest. The styling is masterful, and her great skill at story-crafting makes the book an interesting and enjoyable read. Having always been a bit of a mythology geek, I very much liked the idea of the gods, goddesses, and the like. Crafting a story about these beings into one about Florida takes skill, and Priest manages it more than capably. One of my favorite things about this book is that, near the end, all of the many story threads and arcs come together to form a nice, neat close. As I reader, I enjoy the realizations of “oh, that’s why the that happened the way it did!” I would recommend this novel to readers who enjoy fantasy, particularly if they enjoy urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and a heaping dose of mythology.