Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
Official Summary: “Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant — until Celia meets Lo.
Lo doesn’t know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea — a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid — all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she’s becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she’s tempted to embrace her dark immortality.
When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude’s affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there’s only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her … and steal his soul.”
Recently, a trend of books about sirens, mermaids and other sea creatures has emerged within the fantasy genre, and Fathomless by Jackson Pearce fits within this trend while still containing unique elements all its own. In many ways, the book clearly takes its inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, so much so that I think most readers would see the parallels even if they were not pointed out in the biography of the author and the acknowledgments section. As such, the story is much darker than many mermaid tales, including some of the harsher details of the original story but bringing them to the modern day and tying them in with the story of three triplets with powers of their own.
The book is told from both the perspective of Celia, one of a set of triplets each of whom have the power to read people. While one sister can read the future and another can see the present simply by touching a person, Celia has always been disappointed by her own power as she can only see a person’s past. While rushing to save a boy her age who has fallen into the ocean, Celia meets Lo, who she quickly comes to realize is not a normal person at all, but is instead a sea creature, caught between humans and her own people in many ways. Once a young human, Lo is slowly forgetting herself and losing her soul as she spends more time in the ocean. Celia finally finds a use for her power, using it to reconnect Lo with her past. But as they both grow close to the boy they worked together to save, their friendship is threatened by Lo’s dark new life.
This book offered a different and darker take on the traditional mermaid story, which I felt brought something fresh to the mix. I think Pearce succeeded in this approach because she told the story from multiple perspectives, alternating with each chapter, which allowed the reader to see more than any single character could in a way that quickly escalated the tension. This also made it easier for her to develop each of these characters more quickly, though I was occasionally disappointed with the characterizations of some of the peripheral characters who did not seem fully fleshed out. However, having said that, I think that in some ways this helped to narrow the focus to the main characters in a way that allowed Pearce to move through the story more quickly in a very sparsely structured way.
I liked the dark approach to the story since it made for a much more interesting story than a typical mermaid story. I think that this book would be a good choice for readers who enjoy more of a Grimm Brothers approach to fairytales than those who are hoping to find a mermaid story that is reminiscent of Disney’s animated Ariel. But, for those who like their fairy tales with a dash of horror, this book will be a perfect choice.
Check it Out: Fathomless will be released on September 4th.
Readalike: Those who enjoy Pearce’s re-imagining of a classic fairytale should also try some of her earlier works in the same vein such as Sweetly, a re-imagined Hansel and Gretel, or Sisters Red, which takes on the tale of Red Riding Hood. Those who enjoy the nautical setting, should try Wake by Amanda Hocking or Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama.
Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the Advanced Reader Copy.