Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Fathom by Cherie Priest

Synopsis (via Goodreads):
The ageless water witch Arahab has been scheming for aeons, gathering the means to awaken the great Leviathan. She aims to bring him and the old gods back to their former glory, caring little that their ascendance would also mean an end to the human race. However, awakening the Leviathan is no small feat. In fact, Arahab can't complete the ritual without humain aid.

Arahab's first choice is José Gaspar, a notorious sea pirate from eighteenth-century Spain. But when the task proves too difficult for Gaspar, she must look elsewhere, biding her time until the 1930s, when the ideal candidate shows up: a deranged teenager named Bernice.

Bernice is sophisticated, torn from New York and forced to spend a miserable summer on Anna Maria Island, a tiny rock off the coast of Florida. She's also been saddled with the companionship of her farm-raised cousin Nia. Eventually, Bernice's disenchantment gives way to rage, which in turn leads her to commit a deadly crime. When Nia won't cover for Bernice's actions, she turns on Nia, chasing her into the deadly coastal waves.

The timing is right and the elementals have better ideas: The moment the girls go under, Bernice is commandeered for Arahab's task force and Nia is turned into a strange and powerful new creature by a servant of the earth who doesn't want to surrender his green fields and muddy plains—not yet, at least. Add in a hapless fire inspector who's just trying to get his paperwork in order, a fire god whose neutrality has been called into question, and a bizarre religious cult, and rural Florida doesn't seem quite so sleepy anymore.
My Thoughts: This was one of those books that I had to let percolate for a bit before I could review it.  It's oddly haunting and, while much of what happens is hard and harsh and brutal, you still come out of it with a pale feeling of optimism.  I'm also finding this book difficult to classify.  It's part horror story, part transformative tale and partially an ode to the old Gods.  The Gods who roamed the earth before mortal man was a twinkle on the skin of the world.

Cherie Priest's writing is lyrical and has great flow.  You can feel the heavy air of Florida tangling in our heroes' lungs.  You can feel the dampness and the rot and the agony of waiting for the years to pass and the moment of action to come.
The thick but scraggly grass around them did not rustle at the edges of the rough road, and the ordinary sounds of rodents had vanished into a distressingly obvious silence.  The air around them was heavy, but it was always heavy.  And now there was nothing flying through it, nothing singing or calling from it.  There was nothing but the tyrannical humidity and an overwhelming sense of foreboding.
I really liked the story.  But at the same time it wasn't what I was expecting.  However, I have enough faith in Cherie Priest's storytelling ability to blindly follow where she leads.

Ultimately it was a very different book from her other books.  Like I said, it was hard to classify but it was well worth the ride.

More books by Cherie Priest

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