** This review was originally published on www.teenreads.com, see it HERE **
“Rebellion was in Cassa’s blood. She’d been born a rebel, rocked in a cradle while her parents whispered treasonous plans by firelight.”
Full of dark magic, treachery and a diverse cast of characters with plenty of sass, BENEATH THE CITADEL is a fantasy caper sure to make you swoon.
In the city of Eldra, ancient prophecies rule the people. Fifty infallible prophecies to be exact. And the Council seeks out any seers or diviners to ensure that their rule remains as infallible as the prophecies.
Cassa, the orphaned daughter of the last rebellion, is determined to ensure that her parents, and the rest of the rebels, did not die in vain. She will not be ruled by a prophecy or accept that her fate isn’t her own. She plans to break into the citadel to prove that they know more than they admit regarding a mysterious illness stealing the lives of the citizens.
Her partners in crime, and the very last of the rebels to keep the legacy alive, are her friends. Alys, amateur alchemist and part diviner. Evander, a casual boy with a very uncasual relationship with silver. And Newt, always quiet, constantly underestimated.
Together they have to navigate the crypts below the citadel, try to stay one step ahead of the final infallible prophecy and attempt to save the city. With no one willing to give them the entire truth, they are alone with no one to trust. The question is, can they manage to evade the future already laid out for them? Or is it already too late?
While in many regards this book is very different, fans of SIX OF CROWS will easily fall in love with Cassa and her band of rebel friends. Each character, along with several others not mentioned, are given chapters with their own perspectives. Rather than being confusing or distracting, this allows the reader to connect with multiple characters and get to know them in a more intimate way. This also keeps the tension incredibly high as we discover truths and half-truths as the plot progresses.
And hello diversity. Each character is as diverse and unique as you would expect to find in the real world. Bisexual, homosexual, plus-size, aromantic, cis. Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Beyond being two-dimensional basic representation, each character is vivid and dynamic. Soria does an incredible job making them all feel fully three-dimensional and real. They are snarky and sassy, funny and obnoxious, shy and endearing, angry and full of grief, loving and loyal. These kids have not had easy lives, and the breadth of emotion you experience with them is magnificent.
Soria isn’t afraid to challenge her readers or her characters, so be prepared for some very real life turmoil and decisions. Figuring out your place in a group of friends, within the world at large, deciding what family means and where loyalty lies, and figuring out how to navigate the tumultuous roads of old relationships along with discovering new ones, are all themes raised throughout this book. In addition, heavy Issues such as child abuse, panic attacks and parental loss are also explored. Soria doesn’t offer glib observations and she doesn’t cast opinions, she simply presents how these specific characters handle their complicated lives.
I absolutely loved how Soria uses Cassa’s struggle against fate and destiny as a very real coming of age journey that I think most teens will relate to. Are our futures already destined? Or can we rewrite who we want to be? Soria goes far beyond predictable hero tropes, in this regard, and the journey each character undergoes tackling these questions is complex and profound. This combined with the examination of memory makes this a powerful coming of age story that will challenge teens and adults alike.
BENEATH THE CITADEL is a solid stand alone that will appeal to fantasy readers of any age. It is dark, mysterious and complex with just enough humor interwoven to keep it very, very fun. Even though this is a story about prophecies and ancient magic that portends the future, this is a book full of surprising twists and turns, with an ending that punches you in the gut. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be reading on the edge of your seat! I highly recommend this book!