Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fathomless: In Which I Speculate on Trans Werewolves

It's official: Jackson Pierce is here to stay. You know how I know? Because her books get better as time goes on.

Is it odd to say? That this series gets better with each book, I mean? For book bloggers, that doesn't seem to be much of a recommendation, yet for some reason the series that got talked about the most are the ones that deteriorated over time. Is it because high-profile books get more scrutiny? Or is it the opposite, that we talk more about stuff that provides us with the material?

Why am I even on this tangent? 

Probably because, had it not been for the 2014 prequel/sequel challenge, I would have never looked at Pearce's novels beyond Sisters Red. Despite the beautiful covers and the intriguing synopsis, I would have classified them as sequels to that book with the problematic portrayals. (So thank you, Novel Heartbeat!) That said, if you did read "Sisters Red" and you decided that this series is not for you, I can understand that. But I'm personally glad I gave this one a shot.

Because "Fathomless" is easily my favourite of Pearce's retellings so far. A modern take on the Little Mermaid, it follows Celia, youngest of a set of psychic triplets, the one who can see people's pasts, and Lo, an ocean girl with no memories of her life before the sea. The two meet after they save handsome Jude from drowning, but Lo being unable to stay on land for long, disappears before anyone can pose questions. Celia, feeling guilty because she's forced to take all the credit for saving Jude (and earning his affection) offers to help Lo remember her past. 

Like "Sweetly", "Fathomless" isn't so much a direct sequel as it is a companion novel. The characters and conflicts are different, the only thing connecting them being the Reynolds family and the overarching mythos. The latter is one of the stronger points of the series - Pearce takes ideas and develops them until they're fully integrated in the mythos. In this case, we discover what happened to Naida Kelly.

Remember Naida? Sophia's younger sister, the one the Fenris took away? Yeah, that one.

Remember Sophia? Boy, I sure do. 

Right off the bat, I loved that this book focused more on the friendship between Lo and Celia. There is a romance, and there are hints of a love triangle, but it's not central to the plot. In fact, this is one of those few books where the love triangle is necessary to the plot, and unlike the original Little Mermaid, this is just so much more poignant because Lo and Celia do become genuine friends and it's really heartbreaking, you guys!

It's a lot more happier book that the original Little Mermaid, though. Take it as you will.

I don't want to talk a lot about the plot because it's not really as important as the character interactions - pretty much all of the conflict comes from the relationship between Celia and Lo, Lo's memories returning, the truth about the ocean girls, Celia trying to forge her own identity separate from her sisters', etc. etc. etc. Jude's... okay. He's got some realistic issues and for his limited part of the story, he holds his own pretty well. In fact, despite my issues with Silas from "Sisters Red", I like how Pearce portrays young men that are taking up an alternative occupation after high school, rather than the traditional college-beer-and-student-loans triumvirate.  

I also really like how Pearce explores her mythos, the ocean girls and what happens to them afterwards. I am, however, curious as to what happens when the Fenris try to turn a transgender person - so far, the transformation processes have been strictly gender-specific, and we never spend too much time with our fuzzy villains to really get to know the machinations of their group. (Something to consider for the fifth book, maybe? Earlier this morning I was wondering how interesting it would be to have a Fenris protagonist and a woodsman villain for once.) Would a transformation be determined by a person's biological gender or their psychological one? The Fenris transformation is pretty brutal for men, but for women it seems to take quite longer, so maybe the subconscious gender plays a part? But if that's so, why haven't we met an ocean boy yet?

I am really curious to see where Pearce takes her world next. Fingers crossed, this is going to continue to be an awesome series. 

Note: Image via BookLikes.

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