Before we begin, for those who don't know, I don't do fantasy. It just doesn't work for me. However, most of the books we see on the Tour are written and/or set in the USA, so when I got the chance to read something set this side of the pond I decided to put that aside and give it a go. Besides, Lawhead told us this wasn't about a fantasy world, it was the world which exists beneath the one we see (hence the title). So, great, a fantasy England, with English folklore woven into it. Could be good.
But, I have to say, although the underground world our young heroes Daniel and Freya explore with a couple of Saxon knights could be considered 'not a fantasy world' in the traditional sense, older Daniel's adventures in the book primarily took place in, and trying to return from, Elfland (the faerie realms, to be precise). Riiiight. Given that I was hoping for the story world to be a little more Rowlingesque, I did feel I'd been somewhat mis-sold as I waded through the faerie realms.
The book is made up of two sets of stories - young Daniel and Freya's experiences in Nidergeard (the underground world) as teenagers, and their individual exploits some years later, Daniel in Elfland, and Freya... well, therein hangs the wossname.
Back in February, I wanted to share my unique British perspective on this with the tour as a whole, but having not finished the book, didn't know whether it would later become apparent - or indeed serve a purpose to the plot - that Freya was kidnapped by an Atlas of Britain.
It didn't take me a second thought to realise that Professor Felix Stowe was named after the largest freight port in the UK, and when he introduced us to First Lieutenant Gerrards Cross, Brent Wood et al, I was wondering whether this was deliberate, or whether the author was just rubbish at making up names and hoped his American publisher wouldn't notice. But when Freya started quoting from books by Cookham Dean and Dudley Port, I'd about had enough and wanted to throw the book off the cliffs at Rosslaw Head.
Never fear though, for Freya - being an educated woman who can probably even spell Abbingdon correctly - did eventually work out that all was not as it seemed and that she was being held captive by an A to Z. But we never found out what their agenda was, or why they had such outrageously silly names. Which was a shame, because although many of Freya's actual pages were largely pointless, save for hypnotising both Freya and the reader, hers was the only part of the story I actually wanted to follow.
So, in summary, maybe my expectations of the story and setting were off, and it says something that despite being set in Fairyland and not England after all, I still finished the book. But ultimately, as much as I wanted to like this book, I just didn't. And those bits that I did like were treated as so insignificant in the overall story that they are not enough to sell me on the rest of the series.
My initial thoughts on The Realms Thereunder
But that's enough about that, I think I would much rather have read The Telling by Mike Duran, like these bloggers have:
Jim Armstrong Noah Arsenault Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler