Disclaimer: I rec’d the book, The Realms Thereunder, from the publisher in return for posting an honest review. I rec’d no other compensation other than the book.

The Realms Thereunder

There is a famous, almost trite expression that says “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Of course this presupposes that the imitation is a good likeness of the original. In Lawhead’s book, The Realms Thereunder, I got the impression that Lawhead must be a big fan of Tolkein, trying to imitate his style of ancient myths and archaic language in producing a book, or rather a series of books. Lawhead just doesn’t quite have it, though, and I found this book a poor imitation.

Realms is a two-story plot — one story is the unraveling of what happens when two pre-teen students, Daniel and Freya, get lost while on a field trip and spend two months gone from home. Seems they were sucked into the vortex, or the “realms thereunder” under England. The two youths come back to the modern-day world into dysfunctional lives. The second story, read in tandem with the first, is the same two characters but now college age — Daniel is a homeless man who can’t seem to hold a job while Freya is an OCD Oxford student, fascinated by myths and legends. In this second story, they are again sucked into the vortex because the evil they thought they eradicated as youngsters is raising its head again.

Here are a few things I liked about the book: the character of Daniel is a sympathetic character who needs to be loved. He is a great example of loyalty and aspiring to do the good. I liked the blending of the Oxford characters into the story of the evil downunder … very well done. I enjoyed the camaraderie between the Sleeping Knights.

The negative: Freya was not a very nice character. She seemed to be trying too hard to fit in but just never engendered sympathy in me; I also was NOT impressed by how she treated Daniel. I didn’t like the switching back and forth between then and now and thought it a bit forced — couldn’t Lawhead have written a book about their first adventure and then had the second one be their new test? I didn’t like the forced “old English” archaic language bit … Tolkein is a master at this, Lawhead is not. I didn’t like the fact that the book ends with an obvious … “see you next week for the second part” — I don’t think this is fair to do to the reader, especially making it so obvious.

Part of my less than positive review of this work of fiction is that I was expecting a Christian-themed fantasy, which it isn’t. All the previous fiction books I’ve read and reviewed published by Thomas Nelson have always had a Christian-themed story-line; the books always fit into “Christian fiction” and could be read by or to middle-grade students with little problem. I enjoy books about good vs evil; I love to see the good guys win. But this book just didn’t have those elements. Actually, I think the ugliness in the book is too dark, too depressing … the sleeping knights even seemed a bit depressing at times. The descriptions and language of the book is not what I expected.

Here’s an example of the darkness, the lack of Christian-theme in this book:

that men and women of any type, of any nation, of any advantage, at any time, will always war with, steal from, and take advantage of each other, no matter what is done to try to help them improve their lives. No matter what the advantages — education, riches, comfort — men will still tend towards evil…. it seems that people carry corruption around inside of them wherever they go … I mean that we must do everything, but that even that may not be enough.

REALLY? Where is God in this? Where is faith and religion and hope? BTW, the character who is giving this analysis is one of the sleeping knights … not too optimistic is he?

I won’t be reading the next installment ….

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