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Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan

Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan

It is now safe to say that modern fantasy has grown well beyond its Eurocentric Tolkien inspired beginnings. And emblematic of that trend are fantasy books like Eliza Chan’s Fathomfolk, a pan-Asian novel that draws on Eastern traditions as a jumping off point for something new. But in doing so also comments on current issues including racism and immigration.

Fathomfolk is set in the half submerged city of Tiankawi. In Tiankawi, following an ancient war, humans are on top and the multi-facetted community of water-dwelling fathomfolk are kept down. The story is built around three fathomfolk women. Mira is a half siren newly appointed a captain in the border guards and partner of Kai, the Fathomfolk ambassador and. Kai’s sister Nami is a firebrand, sent from her home, who quickly falls in with the Drawbacks, political agitators seeking to bring down human control. And finally there is Cordelia is a shape-shifting seawitch who has plans of her own, makes deals and manipulates pretty much everyone around her for her own ends. The story then charts the progress of the Drawback plan to destabilise Tiankawi and bring the regime down.

Fathomfolk is a rich but confusing amalgam of Asian influences. Words, foods and concepts from a range of East Asian and South-East Asian communities are mixed together to create the world of Tiankawi. There is an established pecking order with humans at the top and plenty of racism against the fathomfolk to the point where readers may feel that the Drawbacks have a valid point. And Chan’s narrative is most interesting when it digs into this grey – how far is too far when formenting political unrest? What sacrifices are appropriate. Mixed in with this are themes of environmental stewardship, treatment of immigrants and class inequities.

All of which comes together to make Fathomfolk a fast moving fantasy anchored around three interesting characters in a unique milieu. Chan wraps up the action of the book but makes sure to leave plenty hanging for a sequel which will, hopefully, take readers beyond Tiankawi and give readers a taste of the wider world she has created.

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Fathomfok by Eliza Chan

$32.99 AUD


Wrap Up

Fathomfok by Eliza Chan



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