Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: The Realms Thereunder

A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraithlike creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland. And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality-a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners of the British Isles. Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures. Together, they must confront the past, the present, and points beyond to defeat the ultimate threat to humanity.

Nothing they've seen so far prepares them for what The Realms Thereunder.  (Description from

Ross Lawhead is the son of the well-known fantasy/legend author Stephen R. Lawhead.  Having read much of Lawhead's work, I looked forward to reading this novel (which, by the way, has a fantastic cover).  In some ways, I wasn't disappointed.

I expected a novel grounded in British mythology and legend (one of the senior Lawhead's trademarks), and I found it.  This book felt as old as the earth itself, so steeped was it with mythology and old tales.  From forests that give gifts to strange creatures to sleeping knights and underground cities and ancient, immortal people, this book had a lush and detailed world.  And, at the same time, it was a dark and dangerous world.  The earth was ancient, and while ancient good is harbored underneath the surface, ancient evil is awakening.

The creatures and races were likewise unique.   From gnomes whose mantra is that you "always end up where you happen to be", to terrible creatures, to villains and olde-speaking knights, the creatures were diverse.

The characters were well thought-out and three-dimensional.  They weren't amazing, but they weren't bad either.

The writing quality of this book was average, but this is, after all, the author's first published novel.  There's bound to be a few rough edges.  The writing style itself reminded me, distantly, of Tolkien's writing.

Probably my favorite aspect of the book was the short snippets here and there—slipped in naturally—that caused me to stop and think.  There were some beautiful, poetic moments in the book where the character of the characters was revealed.  Clever dialogue dotted each page; the knights spoke like knights, the Brits like Brits, and gnomes...well, it's hard to compare gnomes to anything.

The book's biggest opportunity was in the plot, and I felt like it missed the mark.  It had great potential, but failed to live up to it completely.  I expected a novel that happened after the preceding, inciting events (i.e. Freya and Daniel's previous journey), but it didn't turn out that way.  That was probably the biggest drawback—the book kept flashing back.  If anything, we spent more time in the past adventure than we did in the previous one, and it was rather annoying for the reader.  The characters and situations in the present were much more interesting than what was happening in the past, and as a result I wasn't quite that interested in the past storyline.

When I had finished the book, I sat back and thought to myself, "It ended just as it was getting started."  Due to the flashbacks, it really felt like it.  Events in the present had just begun to move, and the previous storyline had been resolved—and then the book ended.

Still, don't let it stop you from reading this.  It's a good book—good characters, great worldbuilding, great potiential, with a few drawbacks.  Pick it up sometime and decide for yourself.

Rated 7 out of 10.  Recommended, read it. :)

(I received this book for free from the Bookneeze program in exchange for a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.)


Christopher said...

Great review Jake! By the way, when will the blog shut down, if it does. And when is your move?

Faye said...

I'm reading it right now and I can't seem to put it down :) Thanks for the review!

Faye said...

Hey Jake, I really like your blog so I awarded you a blog award. So please head over to my blog to find out how you can pick it up :)

Lisa said...

I read this book and will be reviewing it soon I will link your review to mine thanks Lisa