Review: Beneath the Keep (Tearling #0)

Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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 in the vilest of ways.

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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