I had high hopes for this book when I picked it up. Maybe I shouldn’t have had them, or maybe they were too high, but have them I did. Unfortunately, reading The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead (yes, as in the son of Stephen Lawhead) felt me rather deflated. Probably because it wasn’t written by his father, and it’s rather unfair of me to have expected it to be when the cover clearly said Ross.

The Realms Thereunder follows the stories of Daniel and Freya, two friends who stumbled into another world when they were children. The chapters alternate between describing what happened to the two when they were children, and what’s happening to them now. The strongest part of the story are the ‘flashback’ chapters in which Daniel and Freya are forced to confront an ancient evil in their quest to return home.

The part of the story set in the present confused me. There didn’t seem to much of a plot, and nobody seemed to have any goals until the latter half of the book. Also, Freya seemed to be under some sort of spell or hallucination that never seemed to be explained.

The fantasy part of the novel is based on Germanic and British mythology and legends: elves, faeries, and such. All of the characters in this other world have Germanic names and seem to be from around the time of Alfred the Great.

The book was clearly the first of a series, and in many ways seemed more closely related to a 300 page prologue than a novel.

So was The Realms Thereunder as good as I’d hoped? No. Will I read the second book in the series? Yes,I think I’ll pick it up when it comes out. If you’re a hardcore fantasy fan, you might want to give this a whirl. But otherwise, you may want to give this one a pass.

In accordance with Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, I am disclosing that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions are my own, and I am not required to write a positive review.

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4 responses »

  1. David says:

    Too bad the son didn’t live up to the father. I’m only getting into Stephen Lawhead now, having read and reviewed Taliesin and currently reading Merlin. I’m liking him more and more, and can’t wait to finish the Pendragon Cycle and move on to his Robin Hood retellings.

    • Yes, Stephen Lawhead is an excellent writer, one of my favorites. And I think that negatively impacted my enjoyment of The Realms Thereunder, because a part of me was expecting Stephen Lawhead.

      And do read The King Raven trilogy, it’s absolutely marvelous :).

  2. markn12 says:

    If you want an alternative opinion, I read the book and thought it quite coherent. I was not confused by the time changes, because they are very specifically delineated. This is Ross Lawhead’s first book, and as such, is a very good effort. He has his father’s notable ability to create fantastic plot. Check it out: http://dld.bz/an4FY

    • I didn’t mean I was confused as to which parts of the story took place when, I simply meant I was confused as to the characters’ goals in the ‘present’ part of the book, to wit, they didn’t seem to have any until a hundred pages or so in.

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