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Friday, October 28, 2016

Fathomless by Anne M. Pillsworth (Reviewed by C. T. Phipps)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Summoned

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Anne M. Pillsworth was born in Troy, New York, but is currently living just outside Providence, Rhode Island, at the head of beautiful Narragansett Bay. Anne is am a member of SFWA and HWA and a rabid Austenite. Anne is one part of the Lovecraft Re-Read Project at Tor Books' website along with Ruthanna Emrys.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Sean Wyndham has tried to stay away from the lure of magic—the last time he tried to dabble in the dark studies, he inadvertently summoned a blood familiar, wreaking havoc on his town and calling the attention of the Elder Gods.

Still, Sean has been offered the chance to study the occult with a proper teacher and maybe gain a handle on his tempestuous callings. And it seems like a safe choice—overseen by Helen Arkwright, a friend of Sean’s father and heir to an ancient order of much power, founded to protect New England from that which lurks in the coastline’s unseen depths. But will learning theory be enough, when there is a much greater magical secret hidden in Helen’s vaulted library?

Accompanied by his best friend, Eddy, and their enigmatic new friend, Daniel, Sean wades out deeper into mystical legend and shadow. With hints and secrets buried long in family lore, they turn to the suspicious Reverend Orne once more for assistance. But as Sean deepens his understanding of his power, the darkness is waking.

FORMAT/INFO: Fathomless is an alternating persona 3rd person Young Adult urban fantasy novel set in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and is the second book in the Redemption's Heir series. The book is 320 pages and was released on October 27th, 2015 via Tor teen.

ANALYSIS: FATHOMLESS is the sequel to 2013's SUMMONED, which chronicled the adventures of Sean Wyndham a.k.a the world's youngest Cthulhu Mythos protagonist. Sean Wyndham became a student of the Black Arts in that novel but was, thankfully, rescued by the Order of Alhazred so he could become a less-than-awful sorcerer. The second book opens up with Sean, his best friend Eddy (don't call her Edna), and their new associate Daniel.

While the first novel dealt with the history of Lovecraft's New England Puritans and magic system, this novel shifts over to dealing with the Deep Ones. Lovecraft Purists will be annoyed that the Deep Ones receive something of a white-washing. These ones are merely the victims of government oppression versus a fundamentalist race of religious fanatics who commit acts of human sacrifice. Still, they're an isolationist and surreal race which Sean and company are ill-prepared to deal with.

The most intriguing character of the book is undoubtedly Daniel, who is arguably a better protagonist than Sean himself. Lovecraft scholars will not be remotely surprised by Daniel's "secret' but there's a giddy thrill watching Sean and Eddy slowly figuring out what is going on. Watching the trio develop their friendship which is endangered by Daniel's "Otherness" is a nice little rebuttal to Lovecraft's xenophobia.

Anne M. Pillsworth is of the school which presents Lovecraft's monsters as often misunderstood as genuinely malevolent. This is both a good and bad thing in FATHOMLESS. While I enjoy revisionist takes on The Shadow over Innsmouth, I also think it feels like the story loses some punch if the Deep Ones are just noble victims rather than dangerous. Plenty of real-life groups who suffered persecution also have darker underbellies to their society because human beings, by and large, suck. I see no reason everyone's favorite race of fish men shouldn't be the same way.

The book also has an extensive subplot about Sean struggling with his frustrated ambition. Having discovered that he's the descendant of Reverend Orne, the Order of Alhazred is less enthusiastic about teaching him sorcery. This plays to Sean's greatest weakness, which is that he is ambitious and cocky about his ability to control magic. He'd rather learn from his evil ancestor than have to wait to master the supernatural.

We also get a firm answer on where Reverend Orne stands in the hero or villain spectrum. The book keeps us guessing right until the final pages, however, which is quite the achievement. Too often, authors give away the mystery of a character or drag it out far too long. Here, the author manages to give us the answers at just the right time and I was surprised by the discovery of the Reverend's secret much more than I was with Daniel. I would have liked to have gotten some more character development from Helen Arkwright but she is a fairly minor character this time around.

CONCLUSION: This is an excellent sequel to SUMMONED and I look forward to the next book. The book is a little too accommodating of the Deep Ones but this is a fairly minor flaw in the grand scheme of things, only likely to offend purists. I think Daniel also adds an interesting new dynamic to Sean and Eddy's adventures.


Kathryn Troy said...

Interesting to see how faithful people are to the mythos, and how transparent their inspirations are. My fantasy series does not take place in the mythos, for example, but lovecraft informs my idea of the monstrous.on the other hand, the influence of Dracula is more overt. Definitely sounds worth a read.


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