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Fathomfolk

av Eliza Chan

Serier: Drowned World (1)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner
2143127,940 (3.44)Ingen/inga
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 top: peering down from shining towers 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 help her downtrodden people. 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 Nami, a know-it-all water dragon - fathomfolk royalty - is exiled to the city. When extremists sabotage the annual boat race, violence erupts, as does the clampdown on fathomfolk rights. Both Nami and Mira must decide if the cost of change is worth it, or, if Tiankawi should be left to drown.… (mer)
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Visar 3 av 3
Many thanks to NetGalley and Orbit Books for an ARC of this book.

This debut novel is the first in a trilogy set in a dystopian fantasy world peopled by “fathomfolk”, so called because they are an adaptive species possessing qualities of both humanity and undersea creatures, and also by just plain humans. Thanks to ongoing environmental crises triggered by human greed, unthinking pollution of the water supply, and over consumption, the world is in a precarious state. Its inhabitants live mostly in semi-submerged city-states. Only two of these remain as ‘havens’, as they tumble like dominoes into a uninhabitable condition, and as neighbouring states go to war over scarce resources. Starvation and disease are rampant, and desperate refugees pursue dangerous and exploitative means to escape to the havens.

No exact period is established for when this is taking place, nor any exact geographic area. The places described are fictional lands with names drawn from a number of Asian cultures, past and present. But the story is uncomfortably close to what is even now happening on earth. The struggle for safety and the conflict between the privileged and underprivileged, in each society and in the world, are disturbingly familiar.

Author Eliza Chan was inspired by Asian myth and legend, and some of the character’s names, beliefs, rituals and symbols are recognizably Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Indian. The fathomfolk are not one people, and she shows how their differing customs and appearances also denote different castes and hierarchies. They include a minority of mixed-race people, like the main character, Mira, the half-siren half-human captain of the border guards, who knows full well that she was appointed not because of her high grades but as a “trophy”. She is meant to represent both the absence of racism in Tiankawi, a human-dominated half-submerged city-state, and its opportunities for the underprivileged. Her siren mother, whose name and customs suggest South Asian heritage, was a refugee who married a Tiankawian human. Her father’s family was always suspicious of the “estuary” child and her mother, and her father abandoned them when she was very young. Mira grew up in the city’s worst slum, where most of the refugees lived in abject poverty on rickety boats.

Most of the fathomfolk, mythical characters like sirens and water dragons (the highest rank among them), possess both amphibious characteristics and the ability to disguise as humans to avoid frightening humans, but mostly to protect themselves against human hatred. Even though there are instances of suspicion and prejudice within their own ranks, none are so arbitrarily hateful as the reigning humans. The fathomfolk can look human but can’t live without gills, the mark that gives them away. And so they are the ‘bottom feeders,’ among other derogatory terms, in a society determined to keep them contained there.

Chan tells an evocative fable-like story in this first book. The multilevelled world of submerged, semi-submerged and above-ground communities is colourful and lively, its clashing sounds and colours giving it a sensual texture. Mira’s self doubt, lack of confidence, and self-destructive compulsion to ‘play her part’ as subservient to her human commanders is very believable. As an estuary (mixed race) person, she fits nowhere. Her loving and devoted partner, the magnificent Kai, the water dragon lord and ambassador to Tiankawi from the only other remaining—but fast deteriorating—haven, is honourable and compassionate. For me, this is part of the problem. Except for a few depraved fathomfolk who exploit both sides, but whose personal histories at least explain why, the humans are a undifferentiated lot of nasties. Especially those in power, who are racist, anti-refugee, cruel and extremely class conscious—even to poor humans. While that is certainly believable, it’s also disappointing. There isn’t a single decent, humane, noble, human leader. Maybe that’s for Book 2. This one ends with the usual hook for the sequel, but one that is very well done. ( )
  CynCom | May 30, 2024 |
I have mixed feelings about this book.
The world building is very rich and the premise interesting.
At the same time, there were a lot of characters and I got a bit confused at the beginning, especially as the book was slow paced and I was struggling to understand what was going on.
As I carried on reading, the pace got better and I enjoyed the plot more, as well as the psychological depiction of characters like Nami, Kai and Mira.
However the resolution left me disappointed.

I want to thank Netgalley and Little, Brown Book for sending me a copy of this boom in exchange for a fair review. ( )
  OpheliaAutumn | Apr 17, 2024 |
Originally posted on Just Geeking by.

Content warnings:
As listed on the author’s website:

Alcohol

Blackmail

Class discrimination

Coercive control

Confinement of a minority group (historical)

Corrupt government

Death

Kidnapping

Racism

Mild sexual content

Strong language

Verbal and emotional abuse

Violence


Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan is equal parts delight and frustration as she invites the reader to venture into a world where humans live in cities on the ocean alongside the Fathomfolk, people who have sea creature forms and magical abilities. The world-building is superb, and combined with Chan’s gorgeous writing, I felt like I had truly stepped beneath the sea. While some humans have adapted to their new neighbours, others are always looking to build walls between humans and Fathomfolk.

I liked the way that Chan chose to show the history of Tiankawi and current events through the eyes of three women from different ages and places in society. Serena, a human mother of two children and wife of the Minister of Defence, provides a view into high human society. In comparison, Nami is a dragon and considered Fathomfolk royalty, however, she has lived a sheltered life in a sea haven. When she is exiled to Tiankawi she is treated as a lesser being, a far cry from her royal upbringing, and throughout the book she learns a lot of hard truths.

Mira stands with a foot in both worlds. As a half-human, half-siren, she has struggled to find where and how she fits into either world her whole life. She has just been made Captain of the border guard and is painfully aware that the human council that promoted her is waiting for her to screw up so they can blame it on her Fathomfolk side.

Her perspective is imperative to the novel, and if I had any complaints, it is that I felt that her voice was drowned out a bit by Serena and Nami despite the synopsis suggesting that she was the main focus. Rather, it felt that Nami was more the focus, which I have no complaint about and understand it was necessary for the storyline, I’m just not a fan of being misled by a synopsis.

I mentioned that Fathomfolk is frustrating, not due to anything wrong with the novel. Chan approaches topics of marginalisation and alienation through a fantasy lens with a familiarity that is heartbreaking. It is clear that she has poured her own experience into this book, and as a disabled queer reader, many scenes were painfully recognisable.

I appreciated that Chan wove every marginalised identity into her universe. Fathomfolk features a queer normative society and as a result of the pollution humans have caused, Fathomfolk are developing a chronic illness called gill rot from spending time in the polluted water. It shortens their life span and is forcing them out of their natural habitat and onto land.

Fathomfolk is an extraordinary debut that draws on “Under the Sea” nostalgia and elements of fairytales, while also being reminiscent of the movie Waterworld. I don’t want to outright compare Fathomfolk to any of these because what Chan has created is unique and deserves to be viewed on its own merits. Fathomfolk reminds us that there is beauty in difference, but being different is a painful existence.

This is most certainly a must-read for 2024, and the way the book ends promises a dramatic sequel.

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( )
  justgeekingby | Mar 13, 2024 |
Visar 3 av 3
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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 top: peering down from shining towers 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 help her downtrodden people. 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 Nami, a know-it-all water dragon - fathomfolk royalty - is exiled to the city. When extremists sabotage the annual boat race, violence erupts, as does the clampdown on fathomfolk rights. Both Nami and Mira must decide if the cost of change is worth it, or, if Tiankawi should be left to drown.

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