Freya and Daniel are closer than they will ever want to admit. The are connected in many ways: they went to the same school, they were both born on the same day, and they both went on the same class trip that ended up changing their lives forever.
From the beginning, Mr. Lawhead knew just how to capture my interest and he wove such a fantastical story that I read it in two sittings (and that was only because I had to sleep). Crossing between time periods and worlds, this story reminded me a little of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" yet with more of an adult appeal.
The story focuses on three characters: Freya, Alex and Daniel and jumps between them as well as past and present. I found this switching kept me on my toes and very interested of what was going to happen next and to whom.
Fast paced and full of action, this book may be even better than Lawhead's father's "Bright Empire" series. I could be biased though, as I love books that center around "special" children that have a specific task they must accomplish. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series as I need to know what these three will do next!!
This book was provided by the Book Sneeze program and was used in conjunction with CSFF Blog Tour. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.
Freya and Daniel are on a school field trip to an old church when, in their boredom, they discover a passageway to a tunnel. They come upon two nights who had been sleeping for a thousand years. When the way back to their school group has vanished, the knights lead Freya and Daniel to a world below. The kingdom of the knights is being attacked by hideous beings with evil intent.
The evil will stop only when life leaves the leader Gad. But he has hidden his mortality. "Only if that mortality can be found and destroyed will Gad be vulnerable to attack." (173) Only a mortal can destroy Gad's mortality - a mortal like Freya or Daniel.
The time is getting desperate. Evil is already beginning to rise on the surface of the earth. In the north of Great Britain, animals have been found slaughtered, people murdered and committing suicide.
Only Daniel or Freya can stop the rise of evil from below.
As the book progresses, we follow three stories. In the now, it is three years after the underground adventure. Freya is in college and Daniel is a wandering fellow. Their current stories converge then they are again separated as Daniel has "fallen" into another world and Freya battles evil on the surface. Interspersed with the (nearly) present story is the account of "before," when Freya and Daniel were underground. Although it sounds a bit disjointed, in general, the storyline works. On occasion I would let the book lie for a couple of days and when I resumed reading, it would take me a while to figure out which time period I was reading. I would suggest you read this book through, not reading other novels along with it, as I am wont to do.
The spiritual lessons in the book are clear. There is evil and then there is very deceptive evil. There are also theological ideas to think about. For example, as Daniel wanders through a forest, he asks and the forest provides what he needs. "What he couldn't understand was whether the forest was creating these things for him on request or if they existed already and was just moving them into his path. Or if it was all just coincidence." (208-209) Haven't we had the same kinds of thoughts about God's providence?
This is a good debut for a new fantasy author, following in his father's footsteps. I would have tightened up the telling of the various stories ("now," "two weeks before," "then," etc.) but that did not bother me so much as I still enjoyed the overall story. I look forward to the sequel, as the evil has not yet been destroyed, only mortally wounded.
A reader's guide is included at the end of the book so this would be a fine choice of fantasy reading groups.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Uncover a land that has been hidden for over a thousand years.
Beneath the land of Britain, a great army is sleeping. On a visit to an old church, Daniel Tully and Freya Reynolds awaken two ancient knights from a centuries-old slumber. They are kidnapped and taken to an underground city that stands in peril, besieged in all directions by a vicious warhost. Nidergeard is the only thing protecting the upper world's blissful ignorance of mythical forces that have been held at bay since the creation of the world. In order to return home, Daniel and Freya must strike at the heart of the opposer's power.
I finished the book, but I found it quite hard to, as it was very confusing. The story line was goofy, and you really need to read the next book in order to figure it out.
The back-cover description for The Realms Thereunder is not a very clear depiction of what this debut novel is all about. I can see why it struggled to encapsulate the essence of this story though, it is truly here, there and everywhere, with adventures into different worlds, flashbacks to the past, illusions, deception, underground travels, and even more than that.
When Daniel and Freya were schoolchildren in England they went inexplicably missing for a month or so. What they encountered during that time was passed off as hallucination - encounters with creatures of darkness and a hidden world under the earth. This story of their shared past unfolds alongside the story of their lives as adults, some eight-years-later, as they are drawn inexorably back into the conflict between good and evil.
I'm a fan of Christian fantasy novels (as long as they don't contain â€˜good' magic-doers), but at this point in the series it's a bit unclear how God comes into the swirling morass that Ross Lawhead has penned in this novel. There is also a wizard_of sorts. There isn't really enough detail given for me to draw a firm conclusion on this fellow yet.
Actually, I'm not sure where I come down on this novel, it is more of a very extended prologue that only serves to draw our characters into the action, while revealing their past involvement. It is an interesting premise - intertwining many legends of Great Britain's past with bits of Celtic mythology thrown in as well. I appreciate that many mythological figures are clearly pointed out as forces of darkness and not idolized, or made good in any way, as I was wondering how the author was going to include them.
I'll have to read more of the series before I cast my final vote either way, so you'll have to check back with me then! I can tell you that it certainly keeps your interest piqued with al the twists and turns.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this title.