Monday, July 8, 2019

Review: Below by Alexandria Warwick

Below (North #1)
Below by Alexandria Warwick
Wolf Publishing
Publication Date: February 4th, 2020
Paperback. 320 pages

About Below:

"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"

Last year I read, reviewed, and loved Alexandria Warwick's debut fantasy novel The Demon Race, so when she contacted me about her upcoming North trilogy, I was immediately and eager to read the first book. Below has proved to be another ambitious and compelling story by Warwick that I had a wonderful time reading and now can't wait to continue the trilogy.

Below is set int he Arctic among the Inuit, a group of people that I have become interested in learning about as of late and whose mythology and culture I find deeply fascinating. I really appreciated how Warwick managed to weave in elements of Inuit culture in ways that felt natural and respectful, it's clear that Warwick went into this book having done her research and ready to craft a story that incorporates these elements into an exciting fantasy setting.

Apaay is a bold and seemingly unafraid young woman who is constantly thrust into frightening and unexpected situations, yet remains steadfast even in the face of danger. No matter how intimidating or impossible some situations seem, she never truly gives up and is always loyal to both herself and others. I really enjoyed getting to know Apaay and following her through this book, as she really undergoes a lot of strong personal development that Warwick carefully showcases and expands upon as various events occur.

The Face Stealer and Yuki are both great villains with a lot of depth to each of them. Yuki is easily the more vocally cruel and intimidating of the two, as she lieks to play games with those who end up at her labyrinth and is unafraid to inflict harm or shame on those before her. The Face Stealer is equally as intimidating as Yuki in many ways, though he is much more dangerous due to the powers that he holds and how he enacts his own power over others. Both characters are deeply conflicted and the Warwick carefully unfolds more and more about them, allowing the reader to more fully understand some of their actions and what led them to where they are now.

The thing that I have loved the most about Warwick's books is how her stories aren't just about the plot and how the characters get through whatever present danger they're facing: they are also about how these characters find inner strength, how they grow and learn to understand the world, and how the themes are relevant not only to the characters' lives, but to our own lives as well. There is a lessont o be learned in everything and Warwick weaves this in in such a deft way that you never really notice. The characters are all crafted so carefully and with such detail to background and character development that it's easy to get inside their heads and feel connected to them.

Below is intense and not afraid to throw some punches. This book is filled with a lot of intense and emotionally challenging moments that really establishes the severity of these life or death situations that occur. Despite these moments of despair, what I love about Warwick's writing and her characters is that there are often constant underlying current of hope littered throughout. When a situation feels hopeless or impossible to navigate out of, there is still some reason to believe that maybe, just maybe there is still a way out. I don't see that sort of hope a lot, so it was a nice refresher to see here.

Overall, I've given Below four stars! I can't wait to continue the trilogy and would highly recommend this to anyone interested in a dark YA fantasy inspired by Inuit mythology!

*I received an ARC of Below courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

No comments:

Post a Comment