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“We are not foretold.”
Beneath the Citadel is a standalone young adult fantasy which at its heart challenges the notion of destiny and predetermination. The city of Eldra has been ruled for centuries by the High Council, which maintains its power through prophecy. It’s been four years since the rebellion was quelled, but there’s a ragtag group of friends determined to fight back against the council so that the all the lives lost meant something.
This is a difficult review for me to write. While I enjoyed the overall plot and found it to be unique, the writing style didn’t really work for me and I personally found the execution to be lacking. It is worth it to note that I buddy read this with Melanie, who loved it, and at the time of writing there is an average rating of 4.05 on Goodreads. While this book didn’t hit the spot for me, I do recommend this book! So without further adieu, let’s hop into the review!
Opening Lines: “Four people were supposed to die at sunrise. The four members of the council sat in the Judgement Hall, prepared to declare the prisoners’ fate. The high chancellor himself oversaw the proceedings, as was customary in trials for treason. Deep beneath the citadel, the executioner was waiting.”
I was blown away by the opening chapter and Soria managed to draw me in immediately with the first paragraph. In four lines she was able to set the stage: the political ceremony, who the players were, and the foreboding future. Who are these four traitors and what is their crime? To answer the latter question let’s use the words of Cassa herself: “Why would I deny successfully infiltrating the Central Keep with nothing but some barrels and a pry bar? I’m really quite proud of myself.”
I love ragtag groups out to right a wrong, and this group of characters is precious. I really appreciated learning about their pasts as well as their histories with one another and what side their parents landed on during the rebellion. There are a lot of levels to each of these relationships and Soria did a good job creating and developing these characters.
There are a total of six perspectives in this book. SIX. While I actually enjoyed each of the characters a lot and found each of them to be complex, the crux of my struggles with the narrative is the juggling of these perspectives. The constant shifting of perspective, often times creating mini-cliffhangers at chapter breaks, made it difficult for me to stay engaged in the overall plot and I actually found myself caring less as the story progressed. Coupled with the narrative choice of telling rather than showing, reading the book felt repetitious because the same information was constantly being revisited in each of the six POVs. I found myself bored and wanting to skip ahead to see what new things would happen next. The POVs were actually all written in a third person voice, and I wonder if we had an omniscient narrator would have been more successful.
We all know that I adore worldbuilding, especially religion, and I am happy to say that this is truly where Soria shines! The world is vast and I really feel like I understood the way religion and prophecy was used in this world to exert and maintain power (and how that power corrupted over time). I also really loved the magic system(s) and found it so interesting! I did find the plot to be a bit predictable and frustrating at times, Cassa’s singular goal of revenge really bothered me, and it is like reading the naivete of teenagers that know better and then are shocked when what they suspected winds up being true.
Overall, while I didn’t enjoy the writing style and execution, Beneath the Citadel is a creative standalone fantasy with excellent LGBTQIAP+, fat, and anxiety rep. This just wasn’t the book for me but I definitely recommend it to readers that love multiple POV stories that shed light on the truth/past bit by bit through varying perspectives and memories. There’s amazing worldbuilding and character development, and the cover is gorgeous!
cw: loss of a loved one, torture, abuse, panic and anxiety attacks (really good rep), death
Many thanks to the publisher for providing me an electronic advanced reader copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication. Beneath the Citadel will be released on October 9, 2018.
🤝 Buddy read with Melanie from meltotheany
You can find information about my rating criteria here.