Below by Lee Gaiteri

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This is a world where treasure is buried deep beneath the earth, guarded by goblins, ghouls, and other monsters. The Fell Current is a pull that almost everyone feels, even if they try to deny it. It’s an urge to go below the ground, to the land of the Elder Kingdom in search of the treasure buried within the forgotten realm. Those who go Fell are rarely seen from again, many people venture into the depths never to return again – or if they do return, they emerge with half the number they started with, and as broken people with nothing to show for it. It’s the few that manage to return with riches that keep the momentum and intrigue going for the rest.

The main character in this is young, his name is Brenish and he’s going on 20 years old. He’s known nothing other than a life of thievery and doesn’t know what he wants to do with himself going forward, other than marrying his girlfriend. The problem is his girlfriend’s father won’t have anything to do with it, he is demanding a high dowry, one that’s far out of the reach of Brenish. It’s in the thieves guild nature to help each other out a bit when they fall on hard times.

A man within the guild has been jailed and his wife is left caring for the children on her own. She gets her hands on a potentially invaluable map, it’s a map that supposedly leads to an old wizards storage deep below the ground. If it’s genuine, and if the treasure is really there, he could come back with more than enough money for the dowry. He’d like to try and set up an expedition, but without knowing for certain that the map is genuine, it’s a very risky and expensive move.

Bending to peer pressure from his friends, Brenish decides to abandon plans to go underground himself, and instead to try and sell the map and continue with thieving per usual. He does just that until a job goes bad. He and a group of men set out to rob a caravan that’s carrying large amounts of gold – except when they got there it turns out it was a decoy, and the real caravan made it into the city. This really upset Gareth, the man who gave them the job, and since they came back with nothing they now owe Gareth double what the caravan was worth.

Brenish is in dire straits now that he owes money to someone who’s extremely dangerous – the debt would make marriage for him impossible, so he strikes a deal with Gareth for a loan on top of what he owed in exchange for 7 years of service. He hopes the loan will be enough to impress her father and enough to satisfy a dowry.

Gareth finds out about the map and decides that they will all go and see if it’s true or not, and as a motivator, he takes Brenish’s girlfriend down into the Elder Kingdom with them, that way Brenish can’t run away and keep whatever he finds for himself.

This was written in the third person as well as single pov, so we got to know the main character pretty well. He’s a well-meaning thief type, he doesn’t want to cause excessive harm to the people he robs, he’s not the type to kill if it’s not absolutely necessary. Quick and clean, business-like. He really does care about his girlfriend which is nice to see a normal healthy relationship. But, I was left a little wanting for development in the side characters, they fell a bit flat for me.

This read a bit like an alternate Earth story, there’s buried treasure, wizards, goblins, dragons etc – but there are familiar things as well, the months were the same as we use, and there were references to the Romans, the Greeks, and the Vikings. Of course, it was the Elder Kingdom and the underground world that really intrigued me. The “roads” down there were often long expanses of tunnels filled with different creatures, some benign and others not so much. The “deep creatures” don’t venture out into the sunlight, but below the surface is teeming with mutant versions of rats which are both large and lethal.

The writing was a mix of older dialect and modern ways of speaking, and I don’t mind one or the other, but to have both was a little odd. There were a lot of “aye, nay, ’twas, ’tis” which were mixed in with more modern phrases such as referring to people as “snowflakes”. There were also a couple awkwardly phrased sentences eg, “Think you it’s real, then?”. It’s a shame because at the start I thought the writing was well done, there are definitely passages that were immersive and created a great atmosphere – but over the course of the book, little things built up and took the score down a little for the Writing section. This was a pretty clean book as far as cursing, it’s very tame with just a few “damns” and nothing else. There were a few parts in the book where there was exposition used that was aimed at a younger audience so it’s possible this is a YA, although I’m terrible at defining that genre.

Much of this book was part of a dungeon crawl where things are always lurking in the background waiting to strike the team trying to forge their way towards the wizards hidden treasure, to the pacing is quite quick. It’s sped along by the prose as well, there’s a nice flow to everything that keeps the story going.

Overall, this was a good book that will appeal to people who like dungeon crawl type books with a lot of old-school magic, mystery, and adventure.

Audience:

  • faster paced
  • lots of monsters
  • dungeon crawl
  • lost civilizations
  • old school magic/wizards
  • treasure hunting
  • group on a quest

Ratings:

  • Plot: 11.5/15
  • Characters: 10.25/15
  • World Building: 12.5/15
  • Writing: 10/15
  • Pacing: 12/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 74.25/100 Р3.71/5 GR Рrecommended Amazon Link РFree on KU

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