________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007


Fathom Five. (The Unwritten Books).

James Bow.
Toronto, ON: Boardwalk/Dundurn, 2007.
227 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-55002-692-4.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Vikki VanSickle.

**½ /4


Rosemary shouted over him. "There are people you can talk to. There are other ways you can deal with this! For God's sake, Peter, don't jump!"

Fiona's voice rang in his ears. "Don't listen to her, Peter!

"Peter gulped air into his lungs. He pushed away from the rock face and straightened up.

Peter!" Rosemary was crying.

The voice grew dark. "Enough! Come, Peter!"

The vertigo grabbed his legs. He staggered forward, arms cartwheeling. He tilted, beyond his balance, beyond any hope of getting back. He screamed.

Rosemary leapt forward, grabbing at him. She caught his arm. Peter's stomach lurched as he saw her feet slip on the leaf-covered edge."No!"

Peter and Rosemary's screams echoed as they fell the fifty feet into the water.


Fathom Five is a disappointing follow-up to Bow's first novel, The Unwritten Girl. Rosemary and Peter, the protagonists of The Unwritten Girl have returned in another adventure about travelling to a secondary fantasy world. This time they are older, moodier, and battling against the powerful siren Fiona who wishes to claim Peter for her own.

     While the novel is told omnisciently both from Peter and Rosemary's perspectives, Fathom Five is mostly about Peter and his search for belonging, a common theme in teen fiction. The novel begins with a lot of uncertainty for both Peter and Rosemary regarding their relationship. They share an unexpected and passionate kiss which leads Rosemary to write her feelings in a letter to Peter. In this letter, she expresses concern that, if they start dating and it doesn't work out, then she risks losing her best friend. She, therefore, doesn't wish to become romantically involved with him. Rosemary does not send the letter, but it ends up in Peter's hands via Fiona, a lonely and dangerous siren who wishes to ensnare Peter and bring him to live with her in her world. Rosemary's rejection is the last straw in a series of events that lead Peter to follow Fiona's lead and jump off a cliff and into her world.

     Fiona tells Peter that he is a changeling child that never really belonged in the human world, and she introduces him to Ariel who claims to be his little sister. Fiona's people are kind to Peter and welcome him into their family. The draw of family, plus Fiona's glamour, which is a term that refers to a siren's ability to entrance a victim, lead Peter to forsake his human life and undergo a ceremony that will seal his fate and make him a part of the sirens' world. But Rosemary has followed him into the village, and she is not willing to give him up that easily.

     Like The Unwritten Girl, Fathom Five moves along at a steady pace. Bow's language is clear and unfettered, making the novel a smooth read. Fathom Five is definitely a teen novel, more so than its predecessor which was accessible to a larger, and younger, audience. Peter and Rosemary are dealing with darker, more turbulent emotions, especially concerning their own changing relationship. Bow does a solid job of conveying his protagonists' confusion regarding love. The strongest scenes of the novel are those set in present-day Clarksbury, which unfortunately comprise less than a third of the book.

     Regrettably, Bow does not provide enough detail or atmosphere to the scenes in the other world. Readers who are looking for mythology, folklore and fantasy will be disappointed by the lack of these elements in Fathom Five. Bow misses the opportunity to incorporate or transform the rich source material of maritime folklore and water-based mythology. Instead, Fiona and her people are given wooden or melodramatic dialogue. The village is indistinctive and difficult to visualize. Nothing about it is fresh or particularly engaging. It is unclear to the reader what Peter finds so tempting about their world.

     There are no surprises in this novel. It is smooth, fast read with some moments of truth regarding love, belonging and rejection, but ultimately Fathom Five is an unsatisfying and forgettable novel.

Recommended with reservations.

Vikki VanSickle has a Masters degree in Children's Literature from the University of British Columbia. She is a writer currently residing in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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