Fathom isn’t my favourite of Cherie Priest’s books (the honour for that goes to Bloodshot and Hellbent, by an awful long way), but it was an interesting read. It felt somewhat… inconclusive, because in the end, nearly all of the actions of the book mean nothing. One character in particular just seemed to be there to be described in a quirky way in the summary (“add in a hapless fire inspector who’s just trying to get his paperwork in order”). It was particularly odd because it wasn’t a quirky sort of book at all; it was more dark and weird, with elementals and a whole supernatural world crawling under the skin of normal life. And then that character exited the plot with almost no impact on it; he was just a convenient way of getting from A to B, and then he’s gone.
Still, that darkness and power, the transformations of the characters who get caught up in it, are fascinating — and the loneliness of Mossfeaster is portrayed well, his half-indifference belied by his interest in his creation, by his desire to keep her close. I wanted to know more about Mossfeaster and his past, and Arahab, and the fire elemental too whose existence was only really touched on…
The weirdest point, though, is the depiction of Berenice. There’s a handwave towards setting her up with motivations (she claims to have been molested by her stepfather), but most of the time she just seems spoilt, petty, and… well, evil. Arahab was more ambiguous, with her genuine love for her ‘children’, her drive. Berenice seemed pretty much just out for herself, and it never really went any deeper than that.
This all sounds very lukewarm, but it was a fascinating read. I’d love to have spent more time exploring the mythology and less on the hapless fire inspector or Berenice’s plotting.