Wednesday, January 27, 2021

ARC Review: Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen

Beneath the Keep 

Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling (Book 4)
Publication: Dutton (February 2, 2021)

Description: As a kingdom descends into darkness and new alliances are forged under fire, a battle begins over a prophecy that will change the course of history in this much-anticipated stand-alone prequel to the bestselling Queen of the Tearling trilogy. 

The Tearling, founded as a utopia, has collapsed and reverted to feudalism. As the gap between rich and poor widens and famine threatens the land, rumors of a prophecy begin to spread: a great hope, a True Queen who will ascend and save the kingdom.

But rumors will not help Lazarus, a boy on the verge of manhood, trapped in the clandestine underworld known as the Creche. Enlisted from his earliest days to kill without mercy, he has never seen sun or sky, not until a quest for vengeance propels him aboveground. There he finds a calling amid a royal court rife with intrigue and danger, where he meets Niya, Princess Elyssa’s handmaid, who is not what she appears to be and whose true identity will spell death if revealed.

With a righteous rebellion gathering inside her kingdom, Princess Elyssa finds herself torn between duty to the throne and her growing loyalty to the Blue Horizon, a group of fierce idealists who promise radical change. Elyssa must choose quickly, for threats beset her on all sides, and the powers wielded by an uncanny seer and her shadowy master are preparing to decide the Princess’s fate for her. It is only a matter of time before Lazarus, Niya, and Elyssa will be called into the service of something greater than they have ever imagined: the fight for a better world.

My Thoughts: This prequel to the Tearling trilogy was a dark fantasy filled with intriguing characters. The story is told from multiple viewpoints including a young boy who was sold into the Creche as an infant and trained as a cage fighter in death matches and a lady-in-waiting to the Crown Princess who is an agent for the Blue Horizon group that wants social justice. The Crown Princess Elyssa also has a viewpoint role.

The story talks about a feudal world that is in the process of a revolution. Continuing drought has convinced some of the peasants chained to their land that they have to revolt. Led by Aislinn Martin who had seen her family killed by the bailiffs of Lady Andrews who owns the land after Aislinn caught her attention, the peasants take over a number of the estates on their way to the city to lay their case before the Queen.

Princess Elyssa sees that her mother is a tyrant much more concerned with her own comfort and holding on to her authoritarian grip on her country than caring for her people. Elyssa was raised by a secret member of Blue Horizon and wants to make things better for her people. But she is taken over by a man from the Creche with a grudge against the Royal Family and his witch Brenna who has magical powers.

Our cage fighter who knows himself as Christian but has earned the fighting name of Lazarus has one friend. She was sold into prostitution when she was a child and has taken to using the poppy to cope with her life. When she disappears into the land above, Christian is determined to find her which leads him to work his way into the Royal Guard as a guard for Princess Elyssa.

The story is dark and complicated and each character has to face all sorts of trials. The worldbuilding was interesting. I especially liked the chapter headings which feature quotes from books written about the time period where our characters are living their lives. 

This was an interesting and exciting story whether or not you were already familiar with the trilogy. It has made me want to read the trilogy again with better understanding of what led to the events there.

Favorite Quote:
"No," Elyssa whispered, turning away from the wall and moving back to the window to stare out across her kingdom, this damnable, maddening kingdom that had once had such potential to be great. Everyone seemed content to accept the fall...everyone except the Blue Horizon, with their better world.

It doesn't matter that they don't know how to get there, Elyssa realized suddenly. It doesn't even matter if we never do. The important thing is to die trying. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I can't even tell you how many times I've attempted to read the Tearling series. But I long since realized fantasy novels aren't my forte, sadly.


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