book review

Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan | ARC-Review


The gorgeous, gorgeous cover of Fathomfolk was what first made me want to pick up this book. And then it was so easy for me to dive into the story and get immersed in it completely. This book made me discuss things with myself and others, it made me think but it also made me angry. Continue reading to find out why.

What is it about?


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. And the fathomfolk are tired of it. When a water-dragon and a half siren join forces, the path to equality is filled with violence, secrets, and political intrigue. And they both must decide if the cost of change is worth it, or if Tiankawi should be left to drown.


Book: Fathomfolk | Series: Drowned World #1 | Author: Eliza Chan | Publisher: Orbit | Published: 27.02.2024 | Genre: fantasy | Pages: 439 | TW: blood, murder, racism, death

My Opinion


Thank you to Orbit for providing me with an ARC of Fathomfolk via NetGalley. This does not have any impact on this honest review.

Fathomfolk introduces interesting characters in a very interesting world. The world’s waters are rising, the water is polluted and its habitats dying. Fathomfolk (those who live in the water) need to flee their homes and take refuge wherever they can. Around the world are different human cities in which folk can live as well. One of these cities is Tiankawi which is built in different floors. There’s the ocean, vast and deep but also with shallower regions, then there are the poorer humans and richer folk. The higher the buildings get, the richer and more influential are their inhabitants.

The world building was one of the things I liked most about Fathomfolk. It’s detailed and interesting, giving the reader a glimpse of an apocalyptic yet fascinating world that plays a bit with climate change and rising waters. There are the different Havens all around the oceans which are all endangered. Then there are the human cities that still remain. It’s a very interesting mix of magic, mythology, technology and politics.

The societies are made up of humans and folk from all over the world; selkies, kelpies, sirens, sea witches, water dragons, kappas,… basically any water being you could think of. This constellations makes for many conflicts which I thought were well thought through. I especially enjoyed how the social conflicts were written:
1. Racial conflicts. Most of the fathomfolk in Tiankawi are poor and belong to lower classes. They live in the polluted waters at the very bottom of the city or in floating houses or boats on the surface. While there are lower class humans as well, they still have better living conditions than most of the folk. There is constant tension between humans and folk for that reason.
2. Refugees. Many of the folk have been living in Tiankawi for quite a while but due to havens in the sea dying, more and more refugees try to enter the city – legally or illegally doesn’t matter anymore. But space in Tiankawi has its limits, especially when those who have space don’t want to give any away.

I really liked how those two conflicts were written and underlying the whole story. Each of the protagonists was involved somehow so there were many POVs to the conflicts, highlighting personal but also common interests, wishes, and problems.

My favourite protagonist was Mira, a half human half siren who works in the border guard and is the only fathomfolk captain there. She gets called quota folk. She has carved a place for herself in this harsh city and now she needs to stay there. But she struggles a lot with it and with the pressure from both the folk and the humans. She tries very hard to do the right things but she gets constantly stopped. I could understand her very well, both her anger and her resignation, as well as her love for her city and how she keeps going despite all the obstacles in her way. I also enjoyed that she is also in an established relationship already, one where she can find safety and support. Her boyfriend is the ambassador for one of the Havens, a water dragon named Kai and let me tell you. I loved him. He was by far my favourite character in the book. He’s an absolute sweetheart, thoughtful and yet determined to help in any way he can. He still needs to learn a lot and I liked how he was easily able to learn and adapt.

Kai’s sister, Nami, is new to Tiankawi. She arrives there after undergoing some hardships which don’t present the city and its inhabitants in a good light. It was easy to follow her thoughts. She’s still very young and hasn’t seen much of the world and is thus naive, but also full of will and energy and determination. Through her, we get to see how people get convinced to join an extremist group, how their dynamics work and what they use to gain more followers. I struggled a bit with Nami’s chapters and wanted to shake some sense into her from time to time but I could also understand well why she did what she did.

The fourth POV is from Cornelia, the sea witch’s. I didn’t really like her as a character but I loved how she was written! She’s a very interesting character, always scheming and moving for opportunities for a better standing in society as well as some kind of safety.

I really enjoyed all characters and how each gives soemthing new to the story that made understanding easier but that also made me nod in agreement. I liked how each character was interwoven with both external and internal conflicts.

I absolutely loved this book right up until the ending. I don’t want to spoil it but I really hope the next installment is going to broach the social issues from Fathomfolk. The ending seemed to solve most of the struggles the previous story built up way too easily. It didn’t fit what I read previously and was highly anticlimatic. I truly adored Fathomfolk, but after the ending it still left unsatisfied and left a sour taste in my mouth. After what the story up to that point built up was basically made null and void with the ending. I really do hope this gets resolved!

But all in all, I liked Fathomfolk a lot!



politics | intrigues and scheming | multiple pov | mythology | adult fantasy | established relationships | family bonds |


Have you read Fathomfolk? Do you have a favourite mythological water being? Would you live in the water if you could?

Until next time,


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