Cover Image: Beneath the Keep

Beneath the Keep

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of Beneath the Keep.

I absolutely devoured the The Queen of the Tearling trilogy when I read it years ago so I was excited to see a prequel arrive. It was nice to revisit a world that I had loved and to see how characters developed into future versions of themselves. Unfortunately, because of the many years that passed by, I struggled with remembering a lot of details from the original trilogy and found myself googling characters and events. Once I let that go and decided to just enjoy the novel, I found it much more enjoyable. I also found the second half of the book more interesting and loved the ending.

Beneath the Keep alternates through many different viewpoints which I find slows down a story, especially when there are so many different characters. I was happy to see the Mace, and learn a bit more about Fetch, and it was heartbreaking to see how Elyssa turns from a passionate, caring princess, to the vapid Queen.

Well written, thought out and detailed, I would recommend reading the original trilogy before you dive into this one. I wish I’d done a reread, I feel like I would have enjoyed it so much more.
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This book was extremely well done! We learn so many things and thank goodness I didn't clue in to who some of this characters are in the Tearling series because it would've made this book harder to read.

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an arc for an honest review!
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This prequel to the Queen of the Tearling trilogy was very insightful. It gave me a better understanding of Kelsea's mother and her guard Mace. I never truly understood why she sent Kelsea away to become a better Queen while not making any changes to improve the kingdom herself. Now it all makes sense. I even saw some similarities between Kelsea and her mother that made me truly believe they were related. I enjoyed getting to know Kelsea's father who we know very little about it the original trilogy. We also get to meet a girl named Aislinn, who has had enough of working on a nobles farm only to see her family starve.

The plot surrounds a rebellion and a dangerous seer with her own agenda. A drought and lack of food pushes more and more people to join the Blue Horizon rebellion. Even Alyssa tries to learn more about them and their cause but the changed she wishes to make to help her people are crushed under power hungry forces who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the Tear Sapphires. The insidious threat of the seers mind control kept me on edge. The story starts off when Mace is just a little boy so we get to see him grow up as an underground fighter to eventually become part of royal guard.

I'd definitely consider this an adult fantasy as it gets very dark and involves a bunch of trigger warnings involving children. We got a better picture of how life in the Creche was like for Mace and the other children sold there. The utopia William Tear had envisioned has fallen far from its original purpose. The oppresion festering in the kingdom felt a lot like history repeating itself. On top of the corrupt church we have the nobles who are draining the kingdom with their opulence and complete disregard for their people. Even though I had some idea how it would end I was still very invested in the story and would recommend it to anyone who loved the original trilogy.
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I received this book as a thank you for filling out a survey and chose it as the one most probable to be interesting to me. After reading 18%, I will not be completing it or reviewing it because it is full of bad language. The book also has many viewpoint characters, and only two of them appeared (in their POV) more than once so far. I found it difficult to bond with any of them due to this lack of steady development, plus I only found one character very interesting. The focus seemed more on the overall story than on the individual characters. They were simply the way to show what was happening. I'm more interested in stories that develop the characters. Still, thank you for the opportunity to view this book.
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Beneath the Keep is the prequel to the Queen of the Tearling series where we follow a few characters for the year before Princess Kelsea is born.  I just recently finished all of the books from the series for the first time and loved them all so much, I knew I needed to get my hands on this prequel when I saw that it was not a short story.  We mainly follow Princess Elyssa , Lazarus, Thorn, The Fetch, The Rebellion, and a little of Prince Thomas. 

We are going to start with complaints because I only have one real one. I did not like the narrator.  I picked up the audiobook on my own as this is how I had read all of the previous books, and once again we got a narrator change.  She felt unemotional and lifeless.  I still ended up really enjoying the book (as you can tell from my rating) but that was with me struggling to ignore how the narrator was telling the story.

My not real complaint is this story wasn't what I was expecting/wanted.  You find the reason that a lot of the characters in the three original books are the way they are or make the choices them make, but I felt like they were already perfect characters that changing their motivation didn't help me enjoy this world any more.  My main thought on this is Kelsea's mother, Queen Elyssa.  We get to see a lot of how she because this person the people hate, but I didn't want to like Elyssa, or have her be anything more than a vampent queen only caring about herself and her looks. This world allowed for so many types of people and I felt like it was great to have both the good and the bad in power, but now with this addition of the prequel, your made to view some of the bad as more good.  But this was me fulling putting my expectations onto a story that I did not write, so I view it as not a real thing to complain about.

Now let's discuss the good.
The Writing
The Cruelty
The Characters
The Hopelessness
THAT ENDING
Answers to questions the original series left us
Having more of this world

I'm going to have to bullet these because once again I fell in love with this book and would sit here forever writing about why it is amazing, when I really just want to tell you to go read it!

This book would be appropriate to read after finishing any of the previous ones, you don't need to have finished the series.  It does have lots of trigger warnings and is an ADULT fantasy.  I highly recommend if you like anything by Erika Johansen.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
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Unfortunately, I decided to DNF this one early on. As I haven't read the previous books, I felt out of the look and disconnected from the story. That being said, what I read was interesting and I would return to this book at a later date after I read the original series.
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This was such a great prequel to the original story! It sets everything up so well. Now, it feels like the series is officially over, but I don't want it to end.
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This is a prequel to the Tearling trilogy the author created. The trilogy is about the rise of the True Queen to rule over Tearling, a land somewhere in a future time. The Tearling was founded as a utopia but has collapsed into a feudal society with different factions vying for control. This prequel sets up the political and social structure that allows for Queen Kelsea to fulfill the prophesy they are all striving to. Wonderful characterizations, some twists and some valuable information make this book an interesting read. If you have read the trilogy , reading the prequel felt a bit redundant but there where many enlightening facts about the characters that influenced the future Tearling. It was an interesting read.
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Ever finish a series and think “oh for the love of the gods I can’t believe there’s no more in this world?” Welp, that’s how I felt about Tearling. And I got more!!!! This book was great, showed us a different side of Kelsea’s mom Elyssa and the struggles she went through. It also has POVs for Arlen Thorne and the Mace and one of Elyssa’s ladies’ maids. The Mace is still my son, that’s that.
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I read the three books of the Tearling series and was intrigued to see this prequel.  It hooked me from the first chapter.  We follow Elyssa Raleigh in her journey from the heir to the throne to the birth of her daughter, Kelsea.  We learn more about the Creche and the back story of the Mace as well as other characters from the series.  This book fills in a lot of history that was not present in the series and I loved having the information and placing it.  I will be re-reading the other three books as I feel I will enjoy it even more.

Highly recommended!
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Dark and atmospheric. Beneath the Keep is for sure one of the darkest books I’ve ever read. I took me a while to finish it because every time I read a certain scene, I had to put the book down or sometimes skip it. I haven’t read The Queen of the Tearling, but as soon as I started reading Beneath the Keep, I knew which characters I wanted to reach their goals.

There were also the characters that I absolutely despised because of the things they did.
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If you finished the Queen of the Tearling series with questions like I did, this prequel connects the dots and answers them, while providing more context for what happens outside the castle. It won't probably make much sense unless you've read the Traveling novels. I like how this deals with class and justice from a different angle and gives backstories for some of the characters.

CW for child abuse, drug addiction, murder.
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It's no secret that the Tearling trilogy is well loved. To say I was hesitant in reading this book was an understatement, I thought maybe it would simply ruin the beautiful images I had in my head of Tearling. 

Beneath the Keep was masterfully done. It was able to stand tall as a stand alone, but still help explain so many details of the other three books. Johansen really brought us back to the Tearling world without being too heavy and uncoordinated. It is the perfect guide book into the trilogy. I just may have to re-read them all again.
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Beneath the Keep is a prequel to the Tearling series, focusing on the events that led to Kelsea Raleigh Glynn being removed from her mother Elyssa's care, and raised in hiding in the Tearling. One major character in Kelsea's story is the enigmatic Mace, or Lazarus as some call him. In this novel we learn of the Mace's history, and his evolution from a boy named Christian, to an unbeatable prizefighter named Lazarus, to the moment he takes up the mace and becomes a member of the Queen's guard. We also learn about the Blue Horizon and William Tear's "better world" aspirations.

This novel took me a long time to get through- in fact, it took weeks- because it was so grueling. The underworld that Mace was raised in is cruel, brutal, filled with misogyny, pedophilia, and every vice one can think of. While his evolution as a character was a rewarding arc, the story that takes us on that arc was often difficult to read about. This one is only going to be for diehard Mace and Tearling fans, and for those not triggered by the many challenging issues shown in the Tearling society. While Mace actively fights against all these evils, Johansen spares no detail in showing us that Mace was raised in a society that uses those with little or no power.

The audiobook is beautifully read by Mandy Williams.

CW: heroin addiction, child abuse, child sexual abuse, rape, torture, murder, mass murder

I received a digital and paper review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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I wanted to love this book. I was dying to hear more about the Tearling after finishing the series and was so anticipating this prequel. I have to say I'm pretty disappointed the writing isn't anywhere near as good and I felt like this was almost forced writing, like writing for the sake of writing without much point to it. It's a shame, but I would not recommend it.
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Thank you Netgalley and published for an advanced copy.

Trigger Warnings:
Rape, trafficking, drug abuse and gore.

I really enjoyed this book more than the others. Learning the back story of Princess Elyssa, Mace and the other characters was so fun. I am one for a good dark fantasy. This was right up my alley.

This book takes place before Kelsea was born and follows serval characters mentioned in the other books. Although it has been a while since I've read the other books, I had no issue following along. I believe this book could also be read without knowledge of the other books.
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TW: Excessive Brutality, Rape, Gore, Slavery, Drug Abuse

3/5 Stars
DNF @ 40%

Beneath the Keep is the prequel to The Tearling series and can be read as a standalone. I have not read the series which could be the reason I did not finish this book; however, from what I did read, I enjoyed it. There were many important themes throughout this book that are very well written. 

This book is definitely not everyone's cup of tea due to the excessive brutality and the dark themes, but if you love these types of books, I would highly recommend it. I feel like there was so much world-building and characters, it proved slightly difficult to keep up with the characters and was slow. at parts. 

Overall this book is 3/5 stars. Reading the summary it seemed very interesting, but the plot was too dark for me and I was uncomfortable at parts due to the rape and brutality.
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I haven't read any of the prior books from this series, and my understanding is this book can be read independently, since it is basically a prequel.

I liked that it functioned independently, since I hadn't read the others. Having said that, it didn't really entice me to continue the series either.

What I liked:
The fact I hadn't read the rest of the series. I wasn't invested in it as some other readers might be. That's a good thing. :)
Emotional writing- I really liked this and was invested in learning the outcomes.
The world/scene building- good job! This is make or break for me, and I was interested in reading more about it!

What I didn't like:
I didn't connect with the characters as much as I think I might have if I would have read some of the other books. That's on me though!
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I absolutely loved the Tearling trilogy. I was so excited for this book & while it has been a good read, it has not been a great read. It has read more like a collection of short stories. Time passes and we have no real concept of it. Elyssa went from being 19 in one chapter to 21 a few chapters later & because we get so many characters' POV,  I had no idea 2 yrs had gone by. Other than that, its been a good way to get to know the back story of some of these characters I learned to love. Hope to have more from this author soon.
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As a dystopian kingdom plunges into drought and despair, rumors start to spread of a prophecy of a True Queen who will save this feudalistic society and turn it back to the utopia it was once created to be. Although that time has not yet come, Beneath the Keep follows the people whose choices and actions will bring forth this prophecy. This story follows Lazarus, who will rise from the depths of the horrid underground of the Creche to become a great protector of the queen; Elyssa the mother of the true queen; and Aislinn who will lead a rebellion and ignite the people to rise.

I read The Queen of the Tearling series quite a number of years ago and although the details are fuzzy, the overarching story has stuck with me and I was beyond excited to see a prequel. Although the political viewpoints of the author bleed into the story, this never took my enjoyment away from reading the series and I always felt the world-building was exceptional. This story in Beneath the Keep was dark, addictive, and I feel could be read as a standalone (but I’m not sure who could read this one and not want to start the series right away). I will point out that throughout the story there are references to child sexual abuse and at the end, there is a scene that even though I skimmed, was disturbing. I know the purpose was to show how far society had fallen into evil and to portray Lazarus as a righteous hero but this aspect of the story was hard for me to read and I wish I would have known of this beforehand. I recommend going into this one a little guarded if your heart is sensitive to this subject.

TW: sexual abuse, violence, drug use

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the eArc in exchange for an honest review.
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