With Fathomless, Jackson Pearce’s latest installment in the Fairytale Retellings series, Pearce has created a version of mermaids that lets go of common traditional mermaid characteristics and lore even though it is considered a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid.
The story jumps back and forth between Celia Reynolds and Lo. Celia is one-third of a set of triplets that have special powers. Her sisters, Anne and Jane, can see the present and future while Celia can see a person’s past. The girls use these gifts to their advantage as they prey on local young men. The sisters “read” their would-be suitors and use that info to get free meals, gifts, and whatnot. Celia’s gift seems to be the least important of the three–especially to her–and it causes a slight rift between them. The rift only grows as Celia learns that her power does have a purpose.
Lo lives in the ocean with her sisters and that is pretty much all she knows about herself. Everyday she forgets more about herself, like her original name and life as a human. While she is unsure of her past, Lo is also unsure of her future. She doesn’t look forward to becoming one of the “old ones,” sisters who have been in the ocean so long that they look alike, don’t talk, and sit still until they float away to the angels.
Celia and Lo’s worlds collide one night when a young musician named Jude falls off of the pier into the ocean. Molly, one of Lo’s sisters, desperately wants to be human again and goes to the shore to lure a man into the water and kiss him until he drowns so she can steal his soul. Molly sees Jude fall and marks him as her victim, but Lo intervenes and saves him. Celia saw Jude fall into the water and reaches the shoreline as Lo is dragging Jude onto the beach. This event brings Lo, Celia, and Jude into complicated relationships with each other.
Jude begins to fall for Celia, who dates him with reservation. Celia also sees Lo somewhat regularly and uses her power to help Lo remember her past as a human. Both relationships help Celia build a stronger sense of self-worth, but create a widening divide between her, Anne, and Jane. Lo and Jude also begin to meet each other although Jude doesn’t understand that he is speaking with the person who saved him.
Jackson Pearce’s lore behind the ocean girls and how they came to be turns a lot of what we know of mermaids on its head in a manner similar to what Stephanie Meyer did with vampires. The angels that deliver the girls to the water and wait for them to return is eerie and creepy. Her mermaids lack fins and just swim through the seas baring all of their blue skin. The world building was really well done and Pearce manages to give a complete picture of what the ocean girls’ lives are like while moving the plot along.
Jumping between Lo and Celia as the narrator works really well. We move from Lo’s underwater family to Celia’s dorm room seamlessly and see inside very well-developed characters. The dual view point also helps differentiate between Lo’s different moods.
At first, I didn’t understand how this story fit in with the others in the series. Sisters Red and Sweetly are about werewolves while this book obviously isn’t. A twist toward the end ties the books together, however.
I really enjoyed Fathomless and its engaging new take on mermaids. Lo is as un-Arielle as a mermaid can get.
Genre: young adult
Available: September 4, 2012