Book Review: The Realms Thereunder

21 Feb

Ancient legend tells of an army of knights that will remain sleeping until the last days.

The knights are waking up.

A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraithlike creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland. And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality-a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners of the British Isles. Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures. Together, they must confront the past, the present, and points beyond to defeat the ultimate threat to humanity.

Nothing they’ve seen so far prepares them for what awaits . . . in The Realms Thereunder.

My Impressions:

With a name like Lawhead, you know it must be good!  Really?  Really!   Although it is not really fair to judge Ross Lawhead’s first solo, full length novel by his father Stephen Lawhead’s reputation, it is probably a temptation nonetheless for some reviewers.  So I tried really hard to have no expectations of The Realms Thereunder.  I think I succeeded in keeping both an open mind and not trying to fit the novel into any Lawhead framework.  But I have to say, Ross Lawhead has done the family name good in the first offering of the Ancient Earth Trilogy.

Freya Reynolds and Daniel Tully went missing from a school trip when they were 13 years old.  Since then, they have struggled.  Daniel has drifted along looking for purpose to his life, while Freya has just tried to forget the whole ordeal. Neither has come away from their experience unscathed — Daniel is living on the streets and Freya is coping with an obsessive/compulsive behavior with doorways, especially arched entrances.   Eight years later they are still dealing with the aftermath of the month they spent in an underground world filled with heroic knights, strange creatures, and a quest only they could complete.  And after all this time, the mission they undertook is still incomplete.  Strange and unexplained deaths, suicides and crimes have cropped up in England and they all seem to be tied to Freya and Daniel.

Ross Lawhead has written two stories — the time Freya and Daniel spent underground and the story of their present lives.  The stories are told together — going back and forth with chapter changes.  Sounds kind of confusing?  It never was for me.  Lawhead makes sure the reader knows just where and when he is by designations at the beginning of each story shift.   To me, that just made me read faster so I could find out what happened next.

The characters are likable and sometimes lovable — as in the two sleeping knights Freya and Daniel awaken.  The strange creatures they come across are not always what they seem leaving the reader to find out along with Freya and Daniel just who can be trusted.  Not all is black and white; for me the verdict is still out on some of the characters.  And of course being the first book of a trilogy, the story is unfinished.  That was not frustrating, it just left me wanting more.

All in all, The Realms Thereunder is a wonderful fantasy novel.  There is a lot that can be analyzed — themes, metaphors, symbols, etc.  But bottom-line it is just a good story.  (And if you like that other Lawhead, I think you will like this book too.)


(I received The Realms Thereunder from the publisher in return for a review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Check out what other blog tour participants are saying by clicking on the links below:

Gillian Adams 

Red Bissell  

Thomas Clayton Booher

Keanan Brand  

Melissa Carswell 

Jeff Chapman

CSFF Blog Tour  

Theresa Dunlap 

Emmalyn Edwards  

April Erwin  

Victor Gentile   

Tori Greene   

Nikole Hahn   

Ryan Heart   

Bruce Hennigan

Timothy Hicks   

Christopher Hopper  

Janeen Ippolito

Jason Joyner   

Carol Keen    

Krystine Kercher   

Rebecca Loper



Shannon McDermott   

Rebecca LuElla Miller   

Miriam Neal   

Eve Nielsen  


John W. Otte   

Donita K. Paul   

Joan Nienhuis  

Crista Richey  

Sarah Sawyer   

Chawna Schroeder   

Kathleen Smith    

Donna Swanson  

Rachel Starr Thomson 

Steve Trower   

Fred Warren   

Dona Watson   

Shane Werlinger   

Nicole White   

Dave Wilson

Rachel Wyant 

6 Responses to “Book Review: The Realms Thereunder”

  1. Keanan Brand February 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Excellent review!

    And I agree, readers will like this book!

  2. Dona Watson February 22, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    I too found the presentation of the two story lines side by side an incentive to read faster. Nice review!

    • rbclibrary February 22, 2012 at 11:50 am #

      Thanks and thanks for stopping by.

  3. Rebecca LuElla Miller February 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    A very good review, Beckie. Yes, in amongst all the significance and artistic storytelling, there needs to be a good story that readers will want to follow. So glad you liked this one.



  1. CSFF Blog Tour – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead « A Christian Worldview of Fiction - February 21, 2012

    […] √ Gillian Adams Red Bissell √ √ Thomas Clayton Booher √ √ Keanan Brand √ √ Beckie Burnham Melissa Carswell √ Jeff Chapman Theresa Dunlap Emmalyn Edwards April Erwin […]

  2. CSFF Tour Wrap – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead « A Christian Worldview of Fiction - February 24, 2012

    […] And the nominees, with the links to their posts, are √ √ √ Thomas Clayton Booher √ √ √ Beckie Burnham √ √ √ Timothy Hicks √ √ √ Janeen Ippolito √ √ √ Jason Joyner […]

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