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Fathom Hardcover – December 9, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A decidedly dark departure from Priest's Eden Moore saga (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, etc.), this stand-alone novel is equal parts horror, contemporary fantasy and apocalyptic thriller. During a summer vacation to her aunts coastal Florida home, innocent teen Nia sees her cousin Bernice commit a brutal murder and then get dragged into the ocean by a monstrous water witch. Nia becomes inadvertently entangled in a conflict between primordial creatures that endangers the very existence of humankind. Entombed in stone for countless years, Nia eventually emerges from her cocoon transformed, only to realize that an old god is close to awakening and destroying the world. Priests haunting lyricism and graceful narrative are complemented by the solemn, cynical thematic undercurrents with a tangible gravity and depth. This is arguably her most ambitious—and accomplished—work to date. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

Priest’s southern gothic Eden Moore trilogy (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, 2005; Wings to the Kingdom, 2006; Not Flesh nor Feathers, 2007) was praised for its atmospheric blend of suspense and supernatural intrigue. Now she visits similar moody territory in Florida in a myth-bending tale about immortal sea creatures. Arahab is a water witch with a singular and malevolent goal: to awaken an ancient sea monster, Leviathan, and restore the earthly reign of ancient gods while extinguishing the human race. Unfortunately, Arahab can’t complete the task without a human ally. When the opportunity presents itself in the form of a drowning woman, she grants virtual immortality to murderous, sophisticated young Bernice. What Arahab hasn’t counted on, however, is the wiliness of earth’s defenders, who transform Bernice’s cousin Nia into their own ally and encase her in a stony cocoon until an ultimate showdown between woman and witch. Although Priest’s quirky, character-driven yarn becomes mystifyingly outlandish at times, her creative vision is unlike anything else in contemporary fantasy. --Carl Hays

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (December 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780765318404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765318404
  • ASIN: 0765318407
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,923,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cherie Priest's latest novel, FATHOM, is a fascinating look at a Florida that has so much more to offer than Disney. She's got gods and ghosts, pirates and parades. This is a fantasy novel that's not the same-old, same-old. You'll find no twee elves or lost kings or magic swords. Instead, it's a fresh world of sea gods, a depression-era murderess, and unlikely heroes.

Fans of Tim Powers should definitely read this book. Like him, she has the knack of finding actual weird things and seamlessly interweaving them with her prose until you can't tell what she's made up and what she hasn't. Priest is definitely a writer to keep your eye on.
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Format: Hardcover
Fathom is a story of two teenage girls, a handful of gods and a dead pirate. It gave me a lot to think about while it was a lot of fun to read. One of the girls, one of the gods and the dead pirate are working together to destroy the world. But the enjoyment in reading the book isn't so much in the suspense, but in the skillful way Priest blurs the line between realistic and fantastic, dancing along the boundary between a novel about real people and a fairy tale about symbols of good and evil, while juggling time, place and distance.

Why do people do what they do? Who knows? This is a story about things happening, not about things happening for a reason. Fathom challenges you to accept that sometimes things happen without warning or explanation, or because of forces beyond your control and understanding. It's a book about the power of the elements, of gods and monsters and things that go bump in the day. About the power in places and words and things. It's a fable about not playing with (metaphorical) matches, and letting sleeping powers lie.

One of the strengths of the characterization in the book is in the working out of choices, good, bad or just lucky. About who you can rely on and being redeemed or lost by the friends you make, or the allies you keep. I'm not sure I could accurately visualize either of the two teenage girls, but by the end of the book their choices are vivid and memorable.

Although authors pull their hair out when a book is dropped into a genre, dark fantasy is not too bad a description for this book. Sometimes things go badly; sometimes the cavalry arrives late, and for no reason. Sometimes all you can do is wait; sometimes the right thing to do is to run away as fast as you can.
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Format: Hardcover
I started this book standing in the kitchen, waiting for my tea to steep. Thirty minutes later, the tea undrinkable and my hip numb from leaning against the counter, I decided I should sit down, and managed to do so without ever lifting my eyes from the page.

Superficially Fathom is a story of saving the world, but it's not the usual fantasy adventure. People live and die because more by luck than by skill, there's no wise old man to tell the heroes what they need to know and do, and nobody's actions are without consequence. It's saving the world, so it's a fairytale, but it's a modern fairytale, adult and grim, with hard corners and no safety rails.

Fathom is not just a story about saving the world, though; it's about transformation, and family, and identity, and a great deal of other things, all lurking beneath the surface. It's also about Florida, and as someone who still lives here, I can say with authority she got it right.

This is the second book by Mrs. Priest that I've read, and with it she's established herself in my mind as an author to watch; I look forward to reading more of her work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While lacking the detailed complexity of "American Gods" this book similarly presents a world in which the supernatural lives startlingly close to ordinary life, and is far more potent than most people dream.

I especially enjoyed the characterizations in this book, especially that of Arahab. Other characters refer to her as "the sea witch" but she is clearly a primordial goddess on the order of Tiamat. It would have been easy to present her as a raging, simplistic nightmare, but Arahab has tender feelings for her 'children' -- which makes the story more interesting.

I enjoyed Priest's writing style, and will be keeping an eye open for her other books.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Typically, I love the atmosphere and world-building that Cherie Priest does. Not so much here, for me it fell quite a bit flatter than anything I've read so far (by her). Nia goes to meet her cousin Berenice. During this 1st visit, Nia sees her kill her stepfather and has to run when Berenice tries to kill her too. Both girls run into the water, Nia hoping to escape. But...the water-witch takes Berenice and Nia rejects the witch, yet is saved by another elemental who remakes her into a statue (for a time). Time goes by. Eventually both girls are set loose to do what their creators wanted them to do: destroy (Berenice)/save (Nia)the world. I thought it sounded pretty exciting when I read the back of the book, but honestly it comes out slow and a bit muddied at times - a far cry from previous Priest efforts. If you haven't read Priest before, don't start here. If you have and you just want to see what the book is like, be warned - I found it to be sorely lacking (vs. other works).
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