Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen — ARC Review

Beneath the Keep by Erika JohansenSummary:

The story of a decadent kingdom descended into darkness, alliances forged under fire, and a battle over a prophecy that will change the course of history.

The Tearling has reverted to feudalism, a far cry from the utopia it was founded to be. As the gap between rich and poor widens and famine threatens the land, sparking unrest, rumors of a prophecy begin to spread: a great hope, a True Queen who will rise up and save the kingdom.

But rumors will not help Lazarus, a man raised to kill in the brutal clandestine underworld of the Creche, nor Aislinn, a farm girl who must reckon with her own role in the growing rebellion. In the Keep, the crown princess, Elyssa, finds herself torn between duty to the throne and the lure of the Blue Horizon, a group of fierce idealists who promise radical change . . . but Elyssa must choose quickly, before a nefarious witch and her shadowy master use dark magic to decide for her. It is only a matter of time before all three will be called into the service of something bigger than they have ever imagined: a fight for a better world.

Review: 4 Stars

I requested an ARC of Beneath the Keep because I was really interested in reading The Queen of the Tearling. When I got a copy of this prequel I decided it was time to read the original series and I wound up binge reading the trilogy. While Beneath the Keep could probably be read first or as a stand-alone I would recommend reading it after the trilogy because it really added layers to the original story. I think it will be appreciated best when you already know the characters. I was a little nervous starting this because I didn’t like the way the trilogy ended, but since this book takes place before the trilogy my issues with the ending didn’t really affect my experience with this book.

Beneath the Keep was a really fast read for me, which was great because I had some issues with the pacing of the original trilogy. It is a prequel, but it is a full length novel and has a solid plot. I really enjoyed learning more about characters I loved from the trilogy and also getting to know some of the new characters. Mace has a huge role in this book and this installment added so many layers to his character. Seeing how his backstory shaped him into the guard I loved in the trilogy was really interesting. I also really loved how his character grew throughout the course of this book. When we first meet him he is young and a bit naive and he started to become a cold and morally grey killer. But by the end of the book he has become a truly honorable man who fought for what was right. I know a lot of fans of The Queen of the Tearling were excited for this prequel because Mace was in it and those fans won’t be disappointed.

I also really liked that we got to know Elyssa, the mother of the main character in the trilogy, because before this book we hadn’t seen much of her. Another thing I really loved was that we got to see inside The Blue Horizon rebellion and The Fetch made a few appearances as well. Several questions that had been left unanswered by the original trilogy were finally answered and a lot of the puzzle pieces finally fit together. For the most part I really enjoyed this book, but I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t read the original series. I feel like there was a lot of character development and the plot kind of fell to the background.

I really enjoyed this prequel and I’m super glad that getting a copy finally pushed me to read The Queen of the Tearling trilogy. I felt like this book really added a lot to the series. I don’t read a lot of prequels typically, but I loved this one. If you are a fan of the series I highly recommend you check out this prequel that focuses on the previous generation.

Check out my reviews of The Queen of the Tearling, The Invasion of the Tearling and The Fate of the Tearling!

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