By Cherie Priest
Over the past months and probably years if I’m honest, I’ve read some good things about Cherie Priest’s books (Boneshaker and Four and Twenty Blackbirds come to mind) so when browsing the library for something new, I stumbled upon Priest’s Fathom and decided immediately it should come home with me. I liked this book well enough but I don’t know how to classify it — it was surely fantasy, felt a little like a fairy-tale re-telling of a few mashed up stories, and then a story about sleeping gods.
Arahab waits in the water for the right moment. Waiting for a foot to dip in or a body to be thrown overboard so she can find her next pet child to mold into the beast she needs to wake the Leviathan. She finds her next child in Beatrice a spoiled teenager, murderer, and genuinely wicked person. Her cousin Nia would have been a better capture for Arahab but it was Beatrice she caught. Nia, lured into the water as a means of escaping Beatrice on a murderous rampage, runs from Arahab and believes she has escaped until she realizes she’s been turned to stone. While the beast that made Nia waits for her to awaken, the gods begin to play their own games.
Priest created a strange little world to drop Nia and Beatrice into. Toyed with by gods in the hope these two mortals will do their bidding, they are surprised by the strength the mere humans possess. Nia and Beatrice defy both gods that created them in ways the gods never imagined. The roles they played were interesting even if they were being used as a means to show how the gods have fallen. What I really wanted though was background. In some books I’m good with nothing — drop me in and I’ll learn as I go. Other times, I want ropes. This time I wanted ropes. Not because the story was hard to follow, it wasn’t at all, but because I felt I was missing vital information that would have made me love it more. We know no more of the gods than Nia and Beatrice which is fine and understandable, but I wanted more and that I think is my hang-up.
Would I recommend it? Yes, to someone who is OK with being dropped in to a story. If you are, then all good. Read it because it’s a good book. I was slightly disappointed with it though but still found it well done. I’ve been seeing a lot of talk (or maybe it’s only me looking for something specific) about Four and Twenty Blackbirds. When I get through the stack of towering books threatening to fall off my desk and dent my floor, I’ll be on a hunt for it.