Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted over at Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about but haven’t yet read. Most of the time they’re books that have yet to be released, but not always. It’s based on the Waiting on Wednesday meme, which was originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week my Can’t-Wait-For Book is Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan!
Representation: Southeast Asian setting and cast
Published on: 27th February 2024
From one of fantasy’s most exciting new voices Eliza Chan comes a modern, myth-inflected story of revolution and magic set against the glittering, semi-submerged city of Tiankawi, perfect for fans of Jade City and The Bone Shard Daughter.
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.
For half-siren Mira, promotion to captain of the border guard means an opportunity to reform. At last, she has the ear of the city council and a chance to lift the repressive laws that restrict fathomfolk at every turn. But if earning the trust and respect of her human colleagues wasn't hard enough, everything Mira has worked towards is put in jeopardy when a water dragon is exiled to the city.
New arrival Nami is an aristocratic water dragon with an opinion on everything. Frustrated by the lack of progress from Mira's softly-softly approach in gaining equality, Nami throws her lot in with an anti-human extremist group, leaving Mira to find the headstrong youth before she makes everything worse.
And pulling strings behind everything is Cordelia, a second-generation sea-witch determined to do what she must to survive and see her family flourish, even if it means climbing over the bodies of her competitors. Her political game-playing and underground connections could disrupt everything Nami and Mira are fighting for.
When the extremists sabotage the annual boat race, violence erupts, as does the clampdown on fathomfolk rights. Even Nami realises her new friends are not what they seem. Both she and Mira must decide if the cost of change is worth it, or if Tiankawi should be left to drown.
Everything about this sounds unbelievably amazing. All kinds of (sentient, it sounds like?) water-beings! Water DRAGONS! Half-submerged cities! And very high-stakes political shenanigans, which, given that this is the start of a series, not a standalone, are unlikely to be neatly resolved by the time the book is over.
I love the sound of all three of our MCs – Mira, whose approach I can understand even if the slow changes would frustrate me too; Nami, who is, again, a WATER DRAGON, but also apparently hot-headed enough to ally with extremists – which you can understand, but BAD IDEA, I’m sure; and Cordelia, who sounds like the kind of ruthless that makes me go heart-eyes. (I have weird tastes, this is not news.) I suspect they’ll play off against each other amazingly.
How many, or what kind, of myths is Chan going to draw on, here??? Kappas are Japanese, and I’m pretty sure Japanese myth also has water dragons – but kelpies are from Irish and Scottish mythology, sirens make me think ancient Greece, and sea-witches could be drawn from any number of places. I’m such a sucker for worldbuilding that this might be the part of the book I’m most excited about, because it feels like I don’t often come across stories that mix-and-match from multiple mythologies like Fathomfolk is going to! And I really can’t wait to see how that works here.
Also, that is a frankly ridiculously beautiful cover, by the marvellous Kelly Chong.
This is SO going on my most anticipated of 2024 list!!!