AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.alexandriawarwick.com/
PUBLISHED: February 4, 2020 by Wolf Publishing
GENRE: Young Adult, Dark Fantasy
From the author of The Demon Race comes a YA dark fantasy series inspired by Inuit mythology.
In the heart of the frigid North, there lives a demon known as the Face Stealer. Eyes, nose, mouth — nothing and no one is safe. Once he returns to his lair, or wherever it is he dwells, no one ever sees those faces again.
When tragedy strikes, Apaay embarks on a perilous journey to find her sister’s face — yet becomes trapped in a labyrinth ruled by a sinister girl named Yuki. The girl offers Apaay a deal: find her sister’s face hidden within the labyrinth, and she will be set free. But the labyrinth, and those who inhabit it, is not as it seems. Especially Numiak: darkly beautiful, powerful, whose motives are not yet clear.
With time slipping, Apaay is determined to escape the deadly labyrinth with her sister’s face in hand. But in Yuki’s harsh world, Apaay will need all her strength to survive.
Yuki only plays the games she wins.
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The night is long, but the sun will soon greet you.
Below by Alexandria Warwick is an intense and incredibly unique tale of love and sacrifice filled to the brim with perilous danger and broken promises. It’s an account of respecting the past and your culture, yet willing to go against the grain of everything you know and believe in order to attain what is believed to be unattainable. It’s pages preach about learning to appreciate your own strengths and capabilities, and cracking through the ice to develop the will to pave your own path in life. It’s tragically heart-wrenching and mournful, but also unquestionably beautiful.
Of the many praiseworthy aspects of this book, its setting and worldbuilding are the most notable. We’re transported to a cold and unrelenting North, where life is as harsh and perilous as the most violent of mid-winter blizzards. Its people are wary of spirits and demons, inspired by Inuit mythology, stalking the snow-laden lands, and a horrific encounter with the one known as the Face Stealer is what allows us to tread into the land beyond. We traverse a labyrinth of ice and deadly puzzles, with portals leading to winding corridors, rooms filled with frozen seas, forgotten dungeons, and ruins lorded over by angry, hungry spirits. There’s an air of mystery that lingers throughout the story’s entirety, and learning the secrets along the way is a satisfying experience.
Below is essentially an account of the unbreakable love of family; a girl willing to travel into the unknown for the well-being of her kin, regardless of the dangers she’s sure to face. Warwick’s ability to convey raw emotion is outstanding, continuously barraging us with sheer brutality, only to highlight the resulting feelings of fear, panic, rage, and hopelessness. The trials Apaay faces are utterly heartbreaking, meant to tear her apart until there’s absolutely nothing left of her. However, that profound driving force of love only bolsters her resolve, forcing her to forge ahead through the pain and heartache. It’s somber, but exquisite.
A lonely, wandering heart.
We encounter an interesting cast of characters along our journey, beginning with and focusing on its heroine Apaay. Her path is not an easy one, as she’s stripped of all she knows by malevolent spirits, but as her willpower is tested, she always proves to be stronger than anyone could’ve anticipated. Her encounters with broken human prisoners and ageless beings of ice and shadow allow her to not only slowly approach her goal, but find her true self, as well. I won’t go into much else here, as I feel you must meet these characters on your own in order to fully appreciate what they have to offer.
The writing itself is simply stunning. Poetic and vivid prose graces the pages, each sentence an intricate brushstroke, making this a truly beautiful read that sent chills down my spine countless times. Its singsong style made it easy to associate with a targeted cultural backbone, allowing a certain level of immersion so rarely seen. Unfortunately, the book isn’t without its blemishes. Inconsistent pacing, its repetitive nature, and lack of closure are its largest pitfalls, severely hurting what has the potential to be a perfect dark fantasy tale. We get a glimpse of the grand picture, but it lacks the depth I was hoping for.
Below is a highly original tale defined by its secrets, twists and turns, and moments of harrowing cruelty. This was a highly anticipated read for me, and for the most part it delivered on its promises. Presented with a fantastical world that feels as if it could exist, and jumping from one instance of misfortune to another kept the pages turning at a rapid pace for me. I’ve been left with a lot of questions, and I’m hoping that book two holds some of the answers. If you’re looking for a dark YA fantasy of strength and love, set in an unconventional setting, then I suggest you give this one a try.
Note: A huge thank you to the author and Wolf Publishing for providing me with a complementary copy in exchange for an honest review, and to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.
Alexandria Warwick is the #1 fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender. She is the author of The Demon Race and the upcoming North series.
PRIZE #1: Win (1) signed paperback copy of BELOW by Alexandria Warwick (US Only)
PRIZE #2: Win (1) e-copy of BELOW by Alexandria Warwick (INT)
STARTS: January 29, 2020
ENDS: February 12, 2020