Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen

SPFBO: Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen

Series: The Bitter Sea #1Rating: 5.7/10
Date of Publishing: May 2019Genre: fantasy, romance
Publisher: self-publishedAvailable: Amazon
Number of pages: 386Author’s website: Anela Deen


After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. But when Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else.

Belle’s Review – 7.5/10

I had a lot of trouble writing this review, because I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of depth and heart, and I adored the main characters.

The world building was comprehensive, with enough information to give an excellent picture of the world without straying into info dump territory. I really enjoyed the Nordic setting, it kept everything feeling nice and fresh, especially since I’ve read a fair few mermaid/siren books this year.

The plot was also interesting and kept me engaged throughout the whole book. The tension was well-managed, as was the action and pacing. The writing style really worked for me, and while I hestitate to say that this is YA, the action-focused pace is YA-esque.

The whole cast of characters were great. Leonel and Isaura’s relationship was a delight, as was Johan and Erla’s. The character development was well executed, and watching everyone learn and grow was wonderful, especially with the personal circumstances of both Leonel and Isaura. I identified quite a lot with Leonel, so that was a particularly satisfying arc for me.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It set up the series nicely, while being self-contained enough to work on its own. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the sequel though!

Jen’s Review – 4.5/10

Isaura, newly apprenticed healer and divorcee, is sailing home when a freak storm brews, tossing the ship she is aboard and she finds herself in the sea.

Leonel, mortal merman, rescues Isaura. By doing so, he is going against the Blue Laws that prohibits that sort of thing, in hopes that she can answer some questions about the unnatural storms that have been on the rise.


This really did seem my speed – it has that romance feel, the leads seem ok; I was not too attached to either but that could have changed. I like the brother. I love sibling relations that are fun like this felt like it could be. And the mystery of trying to find who is messing with the storms was intriguing enough.

This was weirdly YA/NA feeling up to this point but with older people. That may change because I was only at the one-third mark. I think it was some of the conversation that felt young. I am not sure why they gave me that impression.
A few other things I found that niggled – mostly to do with Isaura’s thoughts about being broken and the way it was presented which felt a teeny bit heavy-handed. But then again, reflective thoughts about that sort of thing aren’t my favourite way to learn why a character psyche is damaged.

This is another where the writing, editing, and everything is presented very nicely but the story and/or characters just didn’t grab on to me right off. Couple that with more of the reflective thoughts about why the characters are so damaged, instead of showing us by their actions, than I’d prefer and I decided to move on from this one.

Timy’s Review – 7/10

I’ve 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 him with 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.

After Phase 1 ended, I’ve read Beneath Cruel Fathoms fully, and loved it. Read my full review!

Nick’s Review – 3.9/10

This book was sort of a flipping of The Little Mermaid story where the person shipwrecked is the female lead character and the person who rescues her is a merman.  I liked the writing and the story was mildly interesting but two factors really sunk this one for me (pun intended).  The first was the romance element which I really don’t particularly care for in my reads.  I don’t mind if it is sprinkled in here and there but when it is a significant part of the book, it just becomes too much for me to stay interested.  The major reason why I decided to abandon this one however was the lack of any real action.  Too much conversation with not a lot else taking place.


Congrats to Anela Deen for being an SPFBO5 semi-finalist!

You can follow our progress and find everything we’ve done so far on my SPFBO page!