Book Review: Fathom


By Cherie Priest

Tor Hardcover/384 pages


ISBN: 9780765318404

Release Date: December 2008

Recently Cherie Priest’s book The Boneshaker has received a lot of attention. Many genre fans have read and enjoyed their copy only to be left with a sense of “now what?”

Why not give another of Priest’s works a try? Fathom begins with two cousins, Bernice and Nia, spending the summer together on an island. The cousins are mirror opposites; Nia is sweet and hard working, while Bernice is spoiled and corrupt. Soon after Nia’s arrival, Bernice accuses her stepfather of abuse and murders him in a fit of fury. Nia, a witness to the crime, runs in fear for her own life. Bernice chases her into the sea where the two girls struggle until a water witch, Arahab, abducts Bernice. Arahab transforms Bernice into a sea creature. Bernice becomes an integral part of her plan to wake the Leviathan that sleeps at the center of the Earth, and incidentally destroying all of humanity. Nia also becomes transformed. When she wakes up on the shore, she is encased in stone

Bernice and Arahab’s other servant, the former pirate José Gaspar, are given the task to acquire a bronzed shell that will wake the Leviathan. Meanwhile, Nia spends a long time as a statue on the island, where she is worshiped by a bizarre cult. She is woken by Mossfeaster, an ancient creature with dominion over “decay,” and a fire inspector named Sam. It is up to Nia to prevent the bronzed shell from waking the Leviathan.

Priest pits water elementals against earth elementals with a strong narrative and writing that pulls you quickly through the book. Her literary and poetic prose is both economical and beautiful. The characters have compelling motivations for their actions, and even the somewhat psychotic Bernice is a sympathetic character behaving badly. The humor, horror, action, and mystery of this book take you on a journey. And the climactic conclusion draws together all the loose ends, leaving the reader feeling satisfied. The book has pirates, gods, monsters, chases, fighting, and revenge. What more could you ask for? The only problem with this book–it will leave you wanting more.

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