Fathom by Cheri Priest (book review).

Nia goes to stay with her cousin Bernice, hoping for a summer of fun but what she finds changes her life forever. After a sudden violent event, both women are altered, used by creatures of legend as tools in their ongoing battle. Bernice is dragged to the ocean depths by Arahab, who wants to wake the mighty kraken and bring destruction to the world. Nia is transformed by Mossfeaster, a guardian of the land, in the hope that she may be able to stop Arahab and keep the kraken in his peaceful slumber. As both girls adjust to their new existences, they must choose sides and through their actions the world may be saved or lost.


With the increasing trend for fantasy novels to be stretched out into multiple books, it’s refreshing to find a good stand-alone novel of reasonable length. 380 pages in the version I have. ‘Fathom’ by Cherie Priest is perfectly contained within this number of pages and blends a modern American setting with some dark fantasy to create a good save-the-world story.

The two main characters, Bernice and Nia, are both compelling in their different ways. Bernice represents evil and her actions throughout are brutal as she delights in violence and chaos. Nia is the more wholesome of the two, the polite girl from the orange plantation who must fight to save the world. They make an excellent contrast and while openly cheering for Nia, you’ll at the same time be secretly fascinated with Bernice. The mythological beings, Arahab and Mossfeaster, are less developed but in a way that almost feels right. Although it is their plans guiding the events, the story is really focused on the actions of Nia and Bernice. It would have been nice to get a bit more detail about Arahab and Mossfeaster, but it wasn’t really necessary for this book to work.

That probably explains why this book is contained in just one moderately-sized volume. Priest hasn’t spent a lot of time with elaborate descriptions and endless back story for every character. She includes the bits that are necessary for the plot and the result is quite a neat story that satisfies in its directness. That’s not to say that it is in any way dull, only that it has been well-edited to give a complete story with good characters without endless waffle intruding on the action.

‘Fathom’ is a good example of dark fantasy with brutality rather than beauty being the focus of this story. I enjoyed it, yet didn’t get completely lost in its pages and found it to be a refreshing change from the current trend of publishing a story in as many volumes as possible.

Vinca Russell

(pub: TOR/Forge. 380 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1840-4)
check out websites: http://www.tor-forge.com/ and http://wicked_wish/livejournal.com

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