Reviews for Beneath Cruel Fathoms, by Anela Deen

IngridKH's review
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Thanks BookSirens for the free review copy of this book.

I really enjoyed reading this! This was such a well written and engaging read.

I loved how the characters were portrayed and the personal battles they faced really resonated with me. I think a lot of people can relate to the main characters' struggles, even when considering that this takes place in a fantasy world. The relationship between the two protagonists seemed very real to me, and my heart fluttered every time they were together.

The world that this takes place in seems like an interesting mirror, of sorts, to the world that we know, just an older version. But I would've loved to see even more world building, maybe that gets delved deeper into in the sequal?

The magic that i portrayed in this book is really fascinating and I don't really mind not learning a whole lot about it in this, magic isn't always better once it's explained. But maybe we get to learn more about it later. I honesetly wouldn't mind as long as the story still makes sense.

This has truly opened my eyes to indie authors and I'm for sure gonna look for more books like that and make sure they get the praise and attention that they deserve.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

LauraDFTBA's review
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  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters centre-stage? It's complicated


saccalai's review
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Isaura is travelling home after her marriage fell apart. While crossing the sea back to Eisland, the ship is torn apart and she is the only survivor. As she is on the brink of death, Leonel discovers her while investigating the recent storms and shipwrecks. He is convinced they are unnatural and sinister and is determined to find out who is behind them.
Leonel is the guardian of the fathoms, mortal and half merman, the last of his kind. The laws of the fathoms say he is forbidden to save Isaura but she is his only chance to find out more about the storms.
I found the book a little bit too romancey for me but that's just my own taste and I think it was quite well done, not too soppy. I really want to know more about the merfolk and what happened to them. Hopefully in book 2!

One Book More's review
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I loved this story! Like deeply loved it on so many different levels that I don’t even know where to begin when discussing it. I fell in love with the characters, the setting, the references to Norse mythology, Isaura’s wonderful family, and the mysterious events that propel the plot.

I’ll start with the characters.

Well-developed, unique and complex, all of the characters in the story are defined and interesting. The deep and profound familial love that Isaura experiences stand in stark contrast to the abusive and neglectful relationships Leonel has with his parents and siblings. The sibling relationship between Isaura and Jarek is the perfect combination of light-hearted teasing and fiercely loyal protection. I love how Jarek calls Isaura his “heart-sister.” What a beautiful way to express how he feels!

Isaura’s loving father is noble, kind, and wholly supportive of his family. Her aunt is intelligent and perceptive and treats Isaura like a daughter. In a sentence, their love is unconditional, and their acceptance of others, including Leonel, is touching.

Leonel has insecurities and feels weak. He can’t live up to the expectations of his demanding, unforgiving, and ungrateful parents. Of course, they are gods and he is not, so that puts him at a big disadvantage. The horrific abuse, humiliation, and neglect he receives at the hands of his parents and half-sisters is deplorable and very much skews his sense of worth. He sees goodness in others but fails to see any good qualities in himself. He thirsts for acceptance and love and finds it in Isaura who shows Leonel what it feels like to be respected, admired, and loved.

Leonel’s character is developed unbelievably well. His awe-struck wonder when he goes to town with Isaura, his interest and confusion about things we take for granted like buttons, beds, fire, and dancing adds a depth to his character that is often missing in mer-literature. Leonel has to adapt to this new world, and with the help of Isaura, he realizes that there is much he likes about the human world even as the sea calls to him.

Isaura’s character is as deeply developed as Leonel. She, too, craves acceptance and feels as if she has failed. Both Isaura and Leonel vilify themselves over what they perceive to be failures, but what they don’t see is how others have failed them. Leonel’s family fails him over and over again with their physical and emotional abuse, and Isaura’s husband failed her when she needed him most. Leonel and Isaura’s internal conflicts present interesting commentaries on the societal demands put upon men and women and how the failure to live up to those expectations can lead to one’s feelings of inadequacy.

This brings us to the romance!

When Leonel and Isaura first meet, they both feel broken, but their connection and complex feeling for each other strengthens their respective sense of self-worth. They help each other redefine what it means to be “whole.” The depth of the relationship between Isaura and Leonel is profound and deeply romantic. Deen puts into words what it means to love and to feel loved in such a lyrical and beautiful way that I actually slowed down my reading so that I could soak up every word.

And then there’s the setting!

The way in which Deen twined the human world and Leonel’s world under the sea is absolutely masterful! From the descriptive imagery and beautiful sensory language to the variety of ways in which Leonel communicates with different sea creatures to the cave in which he finds peace and solace, Leonel’s world is as vivid as Isaura’s home on land.

In addition to the richly developed setting and characters, there is a mysterious plot that ties Leonel’s world to Isaura’s. Corrupt and power-hungry antagonists on land and in the sea threaten everything this couple holds dear, and they have to work together to figure out how to defeat them. The events that unfold are unique and suspenseful!

I can’t recommend this story enough. It was an absolute treat to read, and I can’t wait for the second book in The Bitter Sea Trilogy! Thanks so much to Booksirens and the author for a copy of this book. I'm leaving the review voluntarily.

Queen Terrible Timy's review
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Beneath Cruel Fathoms was in RockStarlit BookAsylum's group of 30 in SPFBO 5 and made it to be one of our semi-finalists. It definitely one of my top 3 as well after reading up to 25% of each book. I was thinking to coming back to it some day, but I didn't expect it to be so soon. The author was kind enough to gift me a paperback and I just found myself drawn to it as it lay on my desk. And so, I immersed myself in this world and man, it was a ride. I believe that I had to read this book right now as it dragged me out of my slump and also brought back the feeling of joy of reading and I'm grateful for it as I badly needed it.

My thoughts up to the 25% mark:

I've started to read Beneath Cruel Fathoms back in the summer during my vacation, so it was pretty early into the competiton - actually it might have been my second book I sampled - but despite going through 29 other books, it still managed to stay with me in the back of my mind. I didn't have the time to go back to read it fully, but I definitely intend to at one point. The strange thing is, I'm usually not into these kind of books, but Beneath Cruel Fathoms really managed to capture me. The writing was smooth and entertaining, the characters well fleshed out and I liked their interactions. I remember wanting to learn more about Leonel and his life in the sea. As characters go, I could connect with him the most. He earned his role to be the Guardian of the Fathoms, but that didn't mean he did earn the love, let alone respect of his family who constantly look down on him and make sure he doesn't feel welcome in their circles.

I had the feeling that Beneath Cruel Fathoms was a kind of Little Mermaid retelling, where the roles are reversed - Leonel the mermaid who saves the damsel in distress (although don't mistake her for being a weak female character, because she could definitely hold her own) - and as they fight together to figure out what's going on, they more than likely will fall in love. And all of this was set in a Norse mythology inspired world. Definitely an interesting mix. I enjoyed both POVs, getting to know their circumstances, learning about their personalities - I admit the first 25% weren't actually action packed, but I honestly didn't mind. I suspect it will pick up as Isaura and Leonel start to work together in earnest, but I already was being able to lose myself in the story as it was. Deen has a way of writing that just makes you turn the pages without realising.

And some more thoughts after reading it completely:

I pretty much stand by everything I said so far. There is action toward the second part of the book and Leonal stayed my favourite character. I just could connect with him on a deeper level - being a cast out, not trusting anyone especially when faced with nothing but kindness. His and Isaura's feelings are growing for each other and - thank the author - it's absolutely not an insta one. It builds up slowly and there is plenty of enough things going on to keep me absolutely interested and invested. Oh man, I was invested. I had FEELINGS toward the end because let's face it, Deen is a monster (okay, no, I'm kidding, but I'm still sour about certain things *shakes fist*) playing with emotions like a master musician plays their instrument.

"She bit her lip as though she hadn't meant to admit this. Broken. She'd said it of herself before, after her ship sank. Now as then, he wanted to ask but it was clear by the way she held her breath, she prayed he wouldn't. She had no need to fear. He understood her wish to be heard even without being fully understood. To be seen without being looked at."

There were some nice twists in the plot, and though the story arc was concluded nicely, it still left some things open for the next book in the series. Which I can't wait to read, by the way.

Even though books with romance is not something I would pick up usually, I'm glad Beneath Cruel Fathoms found its way to me. The romance was well written and there were enough other things to keep the story going. It also dealt with serious topics such as woman's place in society and how Isaura deals with the fact that she can't live up to the expectations and how that affects her relationships. On the other side is Leonel who is being shunned by his own family and tries to live up to their expectations but keeps failing.

If you are looking for an emotionally thrilling read with romance, mythical sea creatures and a vivid dark fantasy setting, then Beneath Cruel Fathoms is your book.

In_love_with_Bookish's review
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Trigger warning : Talk of infertility , Drowning, Torture and violence

Funny enough this book was never on my radar if it wasn’t for a co-worker and now it’s one of the best fantasy books I read this year. Lately, I’ve been struggling with YA fantasy with each book more and more so I feel like I’m getting more enjoyment from the adult ones and this one were no different.

The story revolves around Isaura Johansdottir whose ship gets destroyed by a vicious sudden storm and loses all hope of rescue when she gets saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk. And that will change both their lives together.

A woman running back home after the disastrous end of her marriage and a creature long thought extinct will embark on dangerous journey to unravel the secrets behind the unnatural storms that reeks of old black magic. But when the path to the truth gets more and more dark, They both have to decide where they stand and how willing they are to sacrifice everything for the safety of both land and see

“We aren’t defined only by our failures and sorrows. I’m starting to believe we’re an assortment. A few big events, but countless smaller details. Little joys that carry us through the days, even when those days are hard.”

It was so refreshing and just a pure fantastical delight. The story didn’t feel familiar or used. To be honest, I was never that much into fantasy books that heavily involves sea creatures but this book may change that for good. I was fascinated by the world building and the fantastical elements with all the history and myths and how it drove the story and the plot.

I also loved how the plot kept surprising me with every turn and step. I couldn’t predict any of the things it happened and I was surprised by some of the turns and how the characters evolved and grew. The plot itself is executed really well with a very well maintained pace. There are thrills, action, romance, angst, tender moments and twists and it was all done in a way the served the story and the characters with perfection.

I really loved the two main characters; they were complex and layered characters. They have depths and struggles of their own and they change and grow as they learn to understand themselves and each other. The chemistry between them is so good and the romance added so much meaning to their stories. I loved the way they challenge each other yet support each other too. The banter is fun and their intimate moments are beautiful

The ending was just crazy; I loved every moment of it. I think it wrapped up the plot of the first one nicely while opening the doors to the second book and what may happen next. I can’t wait


So I’m participating in N.E.W.T.s, a monthly-long magical readathon who is Harry-potter Themed. Basically, You have to pick a Wizarding Career to follow and then You have to get all the grades that will allow you to have that career.

So for me, I’ve chosen to become an Auror which means that I have to get :

O in defense against the dark Arts [Done]

A : A book that’s black under the dust jacket :Nocturna by [a:Maya Motayne|16994094|Maya Motayne|] : 4 Stars
E : First book that you just now remembered from your TBR : Lock Every Door by [a:Riley Sager|15263414|Riley Sager|] : 3 Stars
O : Read a book written by an English author or set in England : Tin Man by [a:Sarah Winman|4197193|Sarah Winman|] : 4 Stars

E in charms [Done]

A : Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover : Wilder Girls by [a:Rory Power|17203508|Rory Power|] : 2 Stars
E : Read a comic/ graphic novel /manga ( or a book under 150 pages ) : And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by [a:Fredrik Backman|6485178|Fredrik Backman|] : 4 Stars

E in potions

A : Read your friend's favorite book : We Are Okay by [a:Nina LaCour|2889003|Nina LaCour|] : 4 stars
E : read a book with a cover in your Hogwarts house color : [b:Beneath Cruel Fathoms|41829826|Beneath Cruel Fathoms (The Bitter Sea Trilogy, #1)|Anela Deen||65289650] by [a:Anela Deen|15162848|Anela Deen|]

A in herbology

A : Listen to an audiobook : [b:A Love Letter to Whiskey|31549837|A Love Letter to Whiskey|Kandi Steiner||52229102] by [a:Kandi Steiner|7319216|Kandi Steiner|]

A in Transfiguration

A : Read a book with LGBTQ+ representation : [b:Top Secret|45280797|Top Secret|Sarina Bowen||69992888] by [a:Sarina Bowen|7737308|Sarina Bowen|]


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