By: Destiny Soria
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
I have not enjoyed a young adult fantasy novel quite this much since I read the Six of Crows duology. Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria is a standalone fantasy novel with a unique magic system.
The city of Eldra is a place ruled by prophecy. The high council follows the prophecies of the seers to the last letter. But the last infallible prophecy has already come to pass, leaving a wake of uncertainty the city hasn’t felt in hundreds of years in its place. The rebellion has gone on for years, but only Cassa, the daughter of two would be revolutionaries, is the only one left. With the rebellious spirit of her parents and a small group of friends, Cassa is determined to see the high council destroyed once and for all. But there are secrets being kept, mysteries surrounding the last infallible prophecy, and a traitor in their midst.
The cast in this book work off each other perfectly. Cassa is the embodiment of rebellion itself – the daughter of rebels killed while fighting for the same cause. Evander and Alys are brother and sister. Evander is a bisexual boy who can control silver. Alys is an asexual girl and a diviner, one who can see the future. Newt is gay, and, due to being double jointed, is able to break in everywhere and anywhere. Vesper is the niece of the Chancellor, the man who ordered Cassa’s family killed, has the ability to read and steal people’s memories, and might have been the one who sold the group out to the high council. These characters work off each other beautifully. There is plenty of banter, but, more importantly, they balance one another out. Cassa’s headstrong nature is tempered by the caution and planning of Alys and Vesper. Where one character has a weakness, another is there to back them up and catch them when they fall. The characters are not afraid to air their grievances or voice their displeasure in one another’s behavior or plans, but neither do they immediately dismiss or condemn one another.
Beneath the Citadel is a book with a lot to say packed into a very exciting infiltration and attempt take out a corrupt government. The story is told from multiple points of view, switching as needed between the five main characters. Very rarely additional viewpoints are thrown in, and, even then,only when absolutely needed. The narrative is also very linear, breaking from this style every once in a while to impart important past actions – the characters meeting one another for the first time being the most common. Eldra, a city ruled by infallible prophecies, is the sole setting. The majority of the narrative takes place beneath the citadel in a vast array of catacombs, as well as on the backstreets of the city. The atmosphere is dark, with a palpable sense of desperation.
These prophecies have always come true and guide the city to the future through the iron will of the high council. However, the high council’s methods are harsh. People suffer, with prophecy and an iron grip on power to blame. Magic in this world is completely based on prophecy, reading the future, and memories. This is very different from most other. Another sort of magic exists as well, one which straddles the lines of science and magic. There are those who are bonded to a certain element – things like silver or gold. This isn’t a natural occurrence, however. It takes an extremely skilled blacksmith, a delicate process, and a very strong constitution to survive the surgery. This is very different from most magic systems, and I found these sections wonderful and fascinating.
Every note this book hits, it hits perfectly. Cassa’s motivation hovers between righteousness and fighting for a better future and pure revenge for what the high council did to her parents and nearly everyone else she knew. She’s walking a very narrow path here, and Cassa is fully aware of this. The adults and their prophecies try to push and pull Cassa and the others in the way they want with little regard to how the teenagers feel. There is no one right answer. There never was.
The histories of these characters are all very different. They don’t always get along. Their pasts and the past actions of their families cloud their judgements and relationships at times. This made for some interesting dynamics between characters, while also solidifying that they are trying to stop the high council for them, not their families, honor, or anything else.
I’m not going to spoil anything, but the book ends perfectly. For a moment, I was afraid the story would draw on some literary devices that have grown into a few of my pet peeves. Yet, they weren’t. Tropes are used sparingly, or for specific effect. This is a book that will surprise the reader in the best of ways.
In all, Beneath the Citadel is a magnificent tale of magic, prophecy, and rebellion that will be a treat for people of all ages. Standalone novels in the sff genre can be a bit elusive, and this fits the bill perfectly. Even if you don’t normally read young adult novels, this is one you should check out.
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