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E-book Evaluation: Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan

Hey all! Today is my turn as part of the blog tour for Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan, a story I’d been very excited for due to the inspirations behind it; East Asian mythology and sea-related folk tales!

I really enjoyed this story, it’s filled with wonderful worldbuilding whilst addressing key current issues in the world today. Will definitely be reading more from Eliza!

Read on for my full review!

About the Book

Title: Fathomfolk
Series: Drowned World #1
Author: Eliza Chan
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: February 27th/29th 2024 (US/UK)
Pages: 448
Source: ARC provided by the publisher (this in no way affects my review which is honest and unbiased) Finished copy purchased by myself!
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

Synopsis

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.

Review

Fathomfolk is a story that is incredibly filled with worldbuilding, with three main points of view throughout who seek to improve their lives.

In this world, there are humans and then there are fathomfolk; those who live underwater. With the waters polluted, most fathomfolk are seeking to make better lives for themselves and their families above water, in the city of Tiankawi. Many humans see gills as making the fathomfolk “too different”, with many expressing their thoughts in cruel ways. With fathomfolk including the likes of sirens and dragons with powers, most are made to wear devices that cause harm if they even consider hurting a human, further ensuring the imbalance between humans and fathomfolk.

The first main character we meet is Mira, a half-human, half-siren who has risen to become captain of the city guard. With guards being predominantly human, this is a huge deal and Mira is still trying to make things better in “the right ways” along with her absolutely adorable cinnamon roll boyfriend, Kai; a dragon who acts as the ambassador of fathomfolk.

Next up, we meet Nami, Kai’s sister and chalk to his cheese. She thinks that acting out and rebelling is the only way to make fathomfolk lives easier, which is dangerous when she’s banished to Tiankawi by her mother and very quickly runs into the third main character and the rebellious Drawbacks.

I won’t mention much about the third character we follow, but she has many secrets and is the only one of the three who seemingly solely cares about herself and her family.

The unfair distribution of power throughout made Fathomfolk an intensely emotional read, though there were many moments of happiness as well. One of the shining characters aiding with these moments, alongside Kai, was Mira’s mum, Trish, a siren. She’s suffering from a disease caused by the pollution, but Mira does all she can to make sure Trish is as well as she can be. I loved seeing the bond between them.

Obviously I won’t talk much about the ending! But it definitely shook me and I cannot wait for more from this world and to read more from Eliza Chan in general!

Have you read this yet?

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