Thursday, March 7, 2024

Mini-Review: Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan


Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan
Publication Date: February 27th, 2024
Paperback. 448 pages.

About Fathomfolk:

"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."

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this debut fantasy novel from Eliza Chan. The first thing I have to touch on, however, is how absolutely gorgeous I think the cover for Fathomfolk is–it's truly a work of art! Fathomfolk takes place in a world where humans and fathomfolk live together in a very tense, fractious environment that has led to much unrest and poor living conditions for fathomfolk who have suffered as a result of the humans' actions. 

What I liked: I loved the setting of a semi-submerged city and all the different fathomfolk that inhabit this world, including sirens, kelpies, seawitches, and more. I thought the world-building was incredibly expansive and rich, with a lot of complexity to it that made it something I was constantly curious to learn more about. That being said, this also ended up being a bit of a con as well, which I'll get to later in this review. I also thought there was some well-written real-world commentary on topics such as social hierarchies, socioeconomic issues, privilege, and poverty. I appreciated that there were POVs from different characters in very different roles in this world, which added important varying perspectives and allowed readers to see different aspects of the world.

What I didn't like: As mentioned, the world-building was rich and complex, but unfortunately this at times ended up feeling as though the author just tried to do a bit too much in one book that wasn't quite big enough for it all. As much as I appreciated the differing POVs, I also felt that there were a bit too many characters to keep track of overall and I lost interest during certain POVs that just didn't grab my attention, which caused the pacing to feel a bit disjointed at times as well. I think this book had a lot of potential and it certainly is an impressive debut, but I often felt like there were just a few too many ideas thrown in at once and it could've been pared down a bit in places or expanded in others. 

Overall, this was a very promising debut and although I think this book could've used a bit more cohesion, I'd definitely be curious to read more set in this world or from this author as the creativity was really top notch. I've given Fathomfolk three stars. 

*I received a copy of Fathomfolk in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this yet but I'm hoping to at some point. Sorry it didn't completely work for you, but I've seen the world building complaint from other readers too.