There are some books that draw me into their world, their characters, so completely that I keep thinking about them after I’ve stopped reading. I want to know what happens “next,” even though the book has ended and the story is resolved (to some extent, depending on the book). Sometimes, I find myself reluctant to start another book, because I want to hold onto the feelings and thoughts generated by this first book. Ross Lawhead’s novel The Realms Thereunder was such a book.
I did not pick up The Realms Thereunder simply because it was written by Stephen Lawhead’s son. In fact, at first I wondered if the book would sell because of his name alone, whether it was well-written or not. I checked a few other reviews and the general consensus was that Ross is just as good a writer as his father. It’s been years since I read Taliesin, so I can’t compare the son to the father. I can say, however, that Ross Lawhead can stand on his own name as a writer.
The Realms Thereunder is set in England, where dark forces are conspiring against the island. Daniel Tully and Freya Reynolds discover a hidden, underground city when they get lost on a school field trip. There, they are sent on a quest and learn about sleeping knights, gnomes and other enchanted creatures. Daniel, who has troubles at school and a rough home life, relishes the adventure; Freya, who comes from a well-to-do family, just wants to get home again.
Eight years later, Freya is a student at Oxford with OCD tendencies and Daniel is living on the streets; both are trying to forget their underground adventures, but strange things are happening. When they run into each other again, neither is sure that they want to renew their friendship. Then Daniel is sent from our world to Elfland and Freya is kidnapped by a changeling. Each of them realizes that they need each other—and they need to go back to the underground city.
In many ways, The Realms Thereunder reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. Lawhead spins a similar story of a quest, of small people being given big tasks, of dragons and trolls and mythical creatures with varying roles to play in the story, of wise men and women, of riddles and ballads. Like LOTR, this is a trilogy, and while the first part of Daniel’s and Freya’s adventures concluded at the end of the novel, there is clearly more to come (in September 2012, when The Fearful Gates releases).
Fantasy fans will want to get their hands on this book (now that I’m done, I’m passing it on to my husband). From a writer’s point of view, Janet Sketchley raises some interesting points about the book in her review (yes, I noticed the typos in the book and found it interesting that editors at big-name publishing houses miss errors too).
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