Monday, February 1, 2021

Beneath the Keep (The Queen of the Tearling, #0) by Erika Johansen

Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Series: The Queen of the Tearling
Publisher: Dutton (February 2, 2021)
Hardcover: 448 pages
ISBN-10: 1524742724
ISBN-13: 978-1524742720
Author's Website: n/a
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my review. Please note this series is not for the faint of heart. Please also note that there is rape, pedophilia, incest, and just about any other vice you can imagine included in this series. If any of those would cause you anguish to read, then this is probably not be the series for you. Also, as I read an eARC all quotes are subject to change and/or removal prior to publishing, therefore, they will need to be checked against the published version. As I bought this one, I'll try to go back and alter what I used, if needed, after doing a quick verification.

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"The stars change. The moon falls. The tide surges, then ebbs. Seventeen Ships went over the horizon, all of them bound for the better world. One ship sank; innumerable sorrows arose. Sixteen ships landed, and the Tearling was born. William Tear fell. William Tear fell. Willian Tear was the True King. The one who saved them all. He fell, and the kingdom fell with him.(...) The harvest. Yes, you will reap. The moon falls, the stars rise. They shift and change! The True Queen Comes! I see her! The queen who will be! The one who saves us all. The queen of spades! The victory of ships! She comes! I see her! I see--"

The kingdom has been suffering from drought for the past two years with no end in sight. Food and water are becoming scarce, and famine is not out of the question. The chasm between rich and poor is wide, and it's no surprise who will survive if things don't improve. The people are beginning to show their discontent, and a new group has emerged causing the current monarchy much grief.  

The prophecy of the "True Queen" is not an new one, but an old one. In order for the prophecy to come to fruition certain things must come to pass. Three individuals will have key roles in making that prophecy come true...

Elyssa is a princess with views very different from that of her mother. She wishes for change.

Lazarus is said to be the greatest fighter in the kingdom and hopes for change.  

While not planned, Aislinn's not going to just sit around wishing or hoping for change, she's willing to sacrifice all for it.

Magic, Sorcery, a kingdom on the brink, and a prophecy about a queen that will save them all...
This is the prequel to The Queen of the Tearling series and, I must confess, I got hooked. I hadn't read the previous books of the series and, after finishing this one, I read them all--one right after the other. The first two chronological books ('Beneath the Keep' and 'The Queen of the Tearling') are my favorites. 'Beneath the Keep' tells the story of The Mace's, aka. Lazarus', story and how he became the man we see later in the series. It also gives us an intimate view into Kelsea's mom's, Elyssa's, life. For those of you that have read the latter books in the series prior to reading this book and think you know everything there is to know about these two characters, think again. There are twists and turns to the tale you'll never see coming. There are also some inconsistencies between the latter stories and this book that I chalk up to the saying once used by Winston Churchill, "for history is written by the victors and framed according to the prejudices and bias existing on their side." In this case, perhaps, it would be more apt to say it's written by those who outlast the others. 

Elyssa is a very likable character who comes across as strong yet somewhat gullible. She wants to make the kingdom a better place for all, but dark magic is afoot. She's hopeful, but also a realist. She hopes to right her mother's wrong, but knows that will not be an easy task. In a way, she reminded me a little of the fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty whose hands are tied against evil, but does what little she can to alter the outcome for the chance at a better future. 

The Mace, aka Lazarus, aka Christian, is also a very likable character. He's loyal to a fault, wiser than he realizes, and people tend to expect more from him then he does of himself. I loved learning his story and seeing him grow as an individual. He is one of my favorite characters in the series. To endure what he did and turn out the way he does is admirable.

Aislinn rises to any occasion she finds herself in. When things don't go as she wishes and knock her down, she dusts herself off and stands up again--tall. She doesn't wait for someone to rescue her, she rescues herself and others when she can. She isn't perfect, but I could totally understand where she was coming from even if I didn't agree with everything she did.  

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story is suspenseful, surprising, complicated, layered, and addictive. I connected with Elyssa on so many levels while The Mace earned my respect. I wish Aislinn played a bigger role in the latter books, but totally understand her importance overall in the series. To anyone who loved the series when it first came out, I would definitely recommend reading this prequel. I really enjoyed it. It is fashioned after the first book, 'The Queen of the Tearling', and fills in some of the holes that were left at the end of the series--including who Kelsea's father really was. I'm foregoing my romance rating because, in my humble opinion, there really wasn't one, although, there is a pair of starcrossed lovers included in it. If you haven't yet guessed, I absolutely loved this tale. In fact, I ended up buying this book and another one in the series to support the author. Yes, I tend to put my money where my mouth is. lol :)  Please note that there is rape, pedophilia, incest, and just about any other vice you can imagine included in this series. If any of those would cause you anguish to read, then this is probably not be the series for you. 
(The below links will transport you to Amazon. Please note these are affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.)

Order of The Queen of the Tearling series:

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