5 / 5 stars
Read in July 2020
Book #1 in The Bitter Sea Trilogy series
Published May 2019
To say that I adored this book would be an understatement. The perfect blend of fantasy and romance, Beneath Cruel Fathoms ensnared me from page one and kept me enthralled throughout its entirety. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered as Isaura and Leonel faced their deepest internal struggles while falling deeply in love and fighting to save the people and places most dear to them. While I always look forward to reading at the end of the day, this is the first book in awhile that had me wishing the minutes would go by as quickly as possible so I could spend my evening devouring this story.
This book does a beautiful job balancing its protagonists’ emotional conflicts with the external action. Both Leonel and Isaura keep their past traumas buried within them, and these issues are developed enough for the reader to empathize with the characters without coming off as heavy-handed. As they face these internal conflicts, Isaura and Leonel must also take action to save the world around them, and find themselves falling deeply in love in the process. Their love story is absolutely beautiful, well-paced, and authentic, from the smaller, tender moments to their lengthier, deep conversations. If you’re looking for a fantasy read with an amazing romance, look no further. On top of this, the plot also contains heavy doses of action and intrigue for readers who enjoy intense battles, magic, and political and family dramas.
The worldbuilding is top-notch, from Leonel’s mystical yet dark world beneath the waves to Isaura’s home on the picturesque isle of Eisland. While the world is mostly Norse-inspired, in particular the gods, place names, and culture of the land dwellers, Anela Deen also incorporates mythological beings from Greek and Scottish mythology. These creatures fit perfectly into the underwater world and help expand the setting while providing opportunities for the plot to a take a new direction. Additionally, small details on clothing, food, decor, and more are sprinkled in to paint a clear picture, and from Ægir’s underwater palace to Isaura’s family farm I found myself completely immersed in this world. Lastly, the language barrier between Isaura and Leonel is handled very well and works as a simple but effective worldbuilding tool while also providing some sweet and laugh-out-loud moments.
Overall, this book is incredible and I hope more people will choose to read it soon. I’m so glad I picked it up the month before its sequel’s publication, and I already cannot wait for Jurek and Ava’s story in Between Savage Tides!
Thank you to author Anela Deen via BookSirens for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.