Monday, February 20, 2012

Ross Lawhead's "The Realms Thereunder"

Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Ross Lawhead's book "The Realm's Thereunder". Ross Lawhead is the son of well known British Speculative Fiction writer, Steven Lawhead, and let's make no mistake, he has definitely decided to follow in the footsteps of his literary father. To date, He has collaborated with his father on a trilogy of speculative fiction, written and illustrated a graphic novel, and published two volumes of “awful” poetry in a series called “The Colour Papers.” He lives in Oxford, England and "The Realms Thereunder" is his first full-length novel.

Ok, I have to be extremely honest here: I am not very familiar with many of Steven Lawhead's books, and I know that's awful since I love speculative fiction -- especially Arthurian fiction -- and time travel and British literature intrigue me. I actually have quite a few of Mr. Lawhead's books at home, but haven't gotten around to reading them yet, as sad as that is. In the past I have read Mr. Lawhead's book "The Skin Map" and reviewed it here on the P&P, and I also received a copy of the second book in that series titled "The House of Bones", which I am planning to review hopefully soon. (I was supposed to review it a while ago, but I'm still picking my way through it; I find it -- eh -- dense, as in the book is rather thick, and it's content really needs to be thought over thoroughly. Dense books always take me longer to get through. :P) I like what I've read of Mr. Lawhead's books, even if I find the works a bit "scattered". Perhaps that's just me though. It's hard to tell sometimes. *shrug*

When I saw that Mr. Lawhead's son had written and published a novel, taking after his father, I was very intrigued. I decided that I should definitely try the book out and see if I liked it, and I figured I probably would, especially after having read the blurb for the book. Here it is:

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.

Now come on, you have to admit that this sounds like a cool story, am I right? ^_^ So I was very happy when I had the chance to get the book from the CSFF blog tour and read through it. Currently I'm almost 80% through the book, and still reading. This review is on what I have read of the book so far and what I think of it to date. It may be that I have to update this review after I get the book completely finished, but we'll just have to see. :)

My thoughts:

Ross Lawhead definitely takes after his father, no question. He is a good writer, and his prose are well placed, and engaging. He certainly has many good ideas and knows how to put interesting details into his stories that help flesh out characters, places and scenes. And I do like his style of writing... it has a definite "British" air about it, and I often find myself reading it aloud with an accent. *smirk*

However (and I think this is unfortunate), I find this work to be as scattered as I find his father's works to be, to date.

I don't say that to seem mean or rude, and like I said, it could just be me. I'm not sure. But let me try to explain what I mean. Up to this point in the story, the book has worked to juggle four different story lines: one for Daniel at this point in time, one for Freya at this point in time, one for Alex at this point in time, and one for Fraya and Daniel when they were children. Each story line is different -- unique to say the very least -- and thoroughly engaging. HOWEVER, at this moment I find it difficult to see how the four different story lines relate to each other. At 80% through the book, I have yet to see the story lines mesh so that the characters can meet and work together to defeat this ancient evil that threatens the world, as is stated will happen in the second to last paragraph of the blurb. Right now, Daniel is currently in another world altogether; Freya is completely spacing out, and coming to every few years or so (maybe... it's difficult to tell what's going on there); Alex was almost killed by a dragon in the modern world; and back in time, Freya and Daniel are searching for an evil heart of some sort.

Now, the author has 20% of the book left to convince me that these storylines will all eventually work together and the story will align. I'm definitely going to keep reading. But at this moment this doesn't feel like one good story; it feels like four good stories, that may have similarities involved, but that really don't have much in common. I'll just have to wait and see what happens closer to the end of the book -- reserve my final judgment until I get the whole picture. Perhaps I will end up changing my thoughts and will have to come back and change my opinions in this review. I don't know.

On another note, I have two copies of this book in reality - a paperback copy that was given to me for the blog tour, and then after I bought my new kindle I went ahead and got an e-book version as well. I've been switching on and off between the two versions of the book, and while I have so far had no real troubles with the physical copy, I've found several formatting issues with the digital copy. These aren't grammatical errors that I'm talking about; these are more like cut offs in the middle of a sentence while the rest of the sentence starts a new paragraph, or paragraphs doing much the same thing. It's rather annoying. :P And to be quite honest, for a book that came out through Thomas Nelson, I expected a better job. I don't know if others have noticed the same problems or not, but it's definitely something that troubles me. I wish it were different.

I honestly must say that I HATE to give negative reviews of any sort. And I especially hate to give negative reviews to good writers, because the truth of the matter is that Ross Lawhead is ABSOLUTELY a good writer. I've kept reading, after all, and I'm going to continue reading to the end. Truth to tell, it's a catchy story, even if it makes no sense to me at the moment. But that's just it: it makes no sense to me at the moment. I may keep reading, and I may even like what I'm reading (which I do), but I can't pretend I know what's going on, even so far into the book. It's confusing right now, scattered all over the place, and the plot lines just don't match up. Hopefully things will improve by the time I reach the end.

Don't let my review deter you from checking out this book for yourself though. For more reviews on this book and other Christian Speculative titles, please visit a few of the links below. I'm sure that others' opinions will differ. :)

Also, you can find more about Ross and his book at:


Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
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
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam 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
Rachel Wyant


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I didn't think this was a negative review--just saying what you didn't care for. I had the most trouble with Alex's storyline and that part when Freya was imagining things. The first always seemed like a disruption because as you pointed out, it seemed like it was a separate story. And Freya's had me confused because I thought at first we had a third time period and the story had switched into the future. The next time we came back to her, I thought I must have missed a chapter and I went back to check. Overall though, I have to give Ross credit for trying something so difficult in his first novel. He's more gutsy than I am!


Star-Dreamer said...

I agree. Alex's story line seemed rather out of the way, and I did the same thing with Freya's story as you did. I think he was very brave taking on this type of story structure, but I'm not really sure that it worked. :P IDK... that's just my opinion. *shrug*

Philip Nelson said...

Stephen Lawhead was one of those authors I mentioned who went secular. :/ I enjoyed a lot of his books, until I read the final book in his Arthurian saga, which reset the story in modern times.

The concept was cool, but the implementation was starkly different than the prior books in the series. I went from reading "normal" Christian fiction to a book full of profanity, clearly intended for a secular market. I was expecting one thing, and got quite another. :/

I sent a letter to Lawhead about it, and he graciously responded, but I've never read a Lawhead book since.

Star-Dreamer said...

Ah. :) Ok. Now I see what you meant. ^_^

That's interesting though, because in the books that I've read of Mr. Lawhead's, I can sense the subtle christian themes while I'm reading, and Mr. Lawhead himself has made it pretty clear that he is christian and uses christian themes.

It's never been that that's bothered me so much as Mr. Lawhead's books, but more of his style. I have quite a few of his books, but the problem is that even though I really want to read them, I often find that while I'm flipping through them I can't connect with his style. And this really bothers me, but I don't know what to do about it. I want to read his books, but how do I connect, you know?

So anyway... I noticed the same pattern of style it would seem with Ross' book, but then the story lines also seemed to be all over the place, so all in all, the book just really didn't work for me. :P I wish it had though... such an intriguing blurb, but it seems that the actual story just doesn't match it.

Dona Watson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dona Watson said...

When I read the book, I didn't think it matched the blurb either, but for me that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The things I were expecting (such as the knights and their roles in the story) ended up being some of my favorite parts. I'm curious to see what you think after you finish the book to see how you felt he handled the many threads at the end.

Nice review.