Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Realms Thereunder

Title: The RealmsThereunder

Series: The Ancient Earth Trilogy #1

Author: Ross Lawhead

Genre: Adult Supernatural Suspense

Excerpt from Chapter One of The Realms Thereunder:

Daniel Tully sat unmoving and unnoticed—just another gargoyle on Broad Street. A paper cup in front of him held fifty-six pence in small coins and there were two pounds in his pocket. That means either a proper meal or a bed in the night shelter. He really wanted both.  He could try blagging his way into the homeless cafĂ©—the Gatehouse—even though he was too young at only twenty years old. That would give him a meal and he could buy the bed and keep the fifty-six pence for tomorrow.

"Spare change, mate?" he asked a pair of business trousers.

The legs continued without breaking stride. Two other pairs of legs coming the other way stopped in front of him and he looked up. 

Two girls, students, stood in front of him and one of them was digging around in her purse. She hastily fished out a couple coins—her friend gazing sourly at her all the while—and dropped them into his cup.

An Oxford student and a man living off the streets are pulled into an increasing threat from not-so-mythical realms.

Craft: The Realms Thereunder felt . . . disappointing. Perhaps the cover and the backcover copy, which the author has no control over, are at fault. But a thrilling, action-packed adventure seemed to be promised, and instead I found a story that I could put down at whim.

It’s not the writing was poor. The prose itself is smooth and has a nice cadence. The premise blends the mythical and real in an intriguing fashion. Colorful descriptions bring to life complex worlds, and the characters seem fairly fleshed out. But the plot seems to wander about, as lost as the protagonists themselves.

Maybe this is because The Realms Thereunder  appears to be a set-up book. Nonetheless, the story lacked tension and drive. While the backstory held great potential, the existence of the contemporary story drains the tension as it eliminates any uncertainty about the outcome, even if the exact specifics are unknown. Meanwhile, the contemporary story wanders without clear purpose or goal; many of the scenes felt repetitious, fillers that added nothing new to the story. Add to this the lack of clear stakes/character goals and protagonists that seem passive rather than active, and the result is a plot that drifts along.

So though the premise intrigues and the prose is vivid, the story fails, at least for me, to hold the attention for any length of time.

Content: Not so differently from the plot, the content of The Realms Thereunder felt underdeveloped. It hints at some story themes about deception, bravery, and God’s timing versus man’s timing, but they never come to fruition. Is this because the novel is a set-up story? Is this because there wasn’t much character growth (which tends to be intertwined with theme development)? Or is it due to some other factor? That I’m not sure.

Beyond this, there’s a fair amount of magical and supernatural elements, but seems appropriately handled for the most part. Also, there is some violence, not graphically portrayed as a whole, and some British swearing.

Summary: The Realms Thereunder is an okay read, especially if approached with the awareness that the story is not high on tension. In short, it’s not a novel you should go out of your way to find, but worth a passing read if you happen upon it.

Ratings: Craft—3, Content—3, Overall—3.3 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Chawna, I can always depend on you for an honest review. Thanks for giving the whys and wherefores of your opinion. A number of other participants have mentioned the story structure as a problem, but I would agree with you -- my central issue with the book was its "put-downable" factor. I shouldn't find it so easy to leave a book. I think you've identified why this one didn't compel me to keep going. Good post.


Nissa Annakindt said...

I missed the British swearing. I'll have to re-read the book. ;)

I'm playing a hidden object game on my blog. I hereby hide a purple orchid in this spot.

Keanan Brand said...

I had a slightly different take on it.

The first in a trilogy bears the burden of setting up the rest of the story, yes, but I didn't find the book lacking. Rather, it did its job: left me wanting to read what comes next.

If the writing is good, if it's detailed (without being heavy) and intelligent, I tend to relax into the story, because I then expect the writer to know what he's doing. Granted, I've been disappointed a time or twelve; with this book, I just wandered along with the characters, and am curious where the story will lead.

Jason said...


That is a fair review, and I'm relieved to see I'm not alone. I finished the book, but it didn't really impact me. Unlike Keenan, I'm not interested in moving on with it.

Dona Watson said...

You have interesting views of the book, as do the commenters above. I found the multiple story lines an interesting reason to keep reading. Maybe that speaks to my love for epics--I prefer lots of threads to keep track of when I read. That said, it's fun to see what others thought. Nice post.

UKSteve said...

I'm looking forward to the British swearing - maybe looking for it will give me the reason to keep reading?

Janeen Ippolito said...

I agree with your summation of the plot--it does seem to drift along without purpose. I actually found myself getting bogged down more in the flashback scenes, especially when they were trying to find their way out of the underground. I almost had an "are we there yet" moment?
Still, I have to give credit for obvious work and craftsmanship.
By the way, like the use of colored fonts for emphasis!