In the YA urban fantasy novel Fathom Five, as in its prequel The Unwritten Girl (2006), author James Bow manages to pull off a feat approaching dimensional transcendence -- packing a generous helping of plot into a mere 200 pages. But at the same time, he never drops the ball on characterization or prose, either. His style is lucid, with some lovely turns of phrase and glints of wry humor; and the characters he introduces to us are sympathetic, interesting and well drawn.

Where The Unwritten Girl (which I reviewed here) was the spunky young Rosemary's story first and foremost, Fathom Five steps a few years into the future and shows her best friend Peter's side of the coin, as he struggles against feelings of loneliness and the fear of rejection -- sentiments that many teen readers will appreciate. James Bow shows a deft touch with these and other emotional aspects of the story, making them believable without ever letting them slow down the book's brisk pace. He even manages to work in a satisfying amount of romance -- made all the more enjoyable by sly twists on some old cliches. Interesting, too, is the reversal of traditional heroic roles in the last third of the book, where Rosemary sets off with her usual determination to rescue the beguiled Peter.

I think what I enjoyed most about Fathom Five, however, was that I kept thinking it was going to slide into predictability, but the next paragraph or chapter surprised me every single time. I also enjoyed the freshness of the setting and the way in which certain elements in Peter's flashbacks cleverly foreshadowed the rest of the story. I plan to read this book (and its predecessor) again, perhaps even out loud to my children when they're old enough to appreciate it.

Well done, James.

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January 2017

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