Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

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 great 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.

Ross Lawhead has collaborated with his father on a trilogy of speculative fiction, written and illustrated a graphic novel, and published two volumes of poetry. This is his first full-length novel. He lives in Oxford, England. You can find more of his thoughts at www.rosslawhead.com/blog/.

Thomas Nelson, 377 pages. Buy the book from ChristianBook.com.

I am participating in the CSFF blog tour of this book and received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for that purpose.
You may want to check out the review of others participating in this blog tour:

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant


Keanan Brand said...

Excellent review! I agree, one shouldn't let too much time pass between reading sessions, but I didn't find it difficult to pick up the threads again. The spiritual themes are present and (dare I say?) obvious, but I never felt preached at, and I think they will make many readers think differently about notions of good and evil, provision, etc.

Dona Watson said...

The author had me going there at the end as I rode along with Freya, trying to make a determination regarding the good vs. bad qualities of a certain character (which I shall leave unnamed in order to avoid spoiling it for anyone). And I agree with Keanan--I wouldn't want to read this book along with another at the same time. There are already enough story threads to keep track of in this book alone. :)

Nice review!