Those Above by Daniel Polansky
Book of the Month
Those Above is the first novel in The Empty Throne series. At the start I wasn't sure what I had let myself in for, with the prologue and the first chapter focusing on two very different battles, I had to wonder whether this was going to be the whole story. Luckily this was not the case and I was soon reading about a world that in just one continent had a variety of different people, societies and cultures. This novel shifts between political intrigue, magnificent machines, family, war and everything in between.
There are two main powers that have been adversaries in the past but are currently at peace with each other. Firstly there are Those Above, also known as Eternal or The Others who live on the first rung of The Roost, far up in the sky, who see themselves as beyond the cares of the short-lived. Those Above are humanoid but are taller, more beautiful and graceful than humans. They also age differently with their lifespans lasting hundreds of years. Those Above rule The Roost and see themselves as caretakers of the continent. The Eternal have a number of human servants which deal with the day to day running of their estates on the first rung. There are five rungs in The Roost with each rung becoming poorer and denser in population. The technology of Those Above is more advanced than that of the human population and has a steampunk feel to it. The other main power on this continent is the Aelerian Commonwealth who keep expanding and conquering territory across the continent overseen by Those Above. The Aelerian Commonwealth seems structured similarly to The Roman Empire as it is run via a senate, for the people, but is also quite corrupt, with most of the people posturing and bribing their way to positions. The Aelerians fought The Others twenty-five years ago and still see them as demons.
The book is split between four different character perspectives. There is Bas, the leader of the Western Army of the Aelerian Commonwealth, also known as The God Killer as he defeated one of The Others in single combat the last time the Aelerians fought them. Bas is a weathered man, who is comfortable being with his troops on the battlefield. Calla is the seneschal for The Aubade, Lord of the Red Keep. Calla is very privileged and although she knows she lives to serve, the system set up in The Roost works so well that she doesn't realise that she is just as trapped as those on the rungs below her. Domina Eudokia is complicated as she puts on a benign face to the world, but unbeknownst to most of the population has spent the last 25 years pulling the strings of the Senate. Lastly, there is Thistle, a boy of 16 who lives on the fifth rung, not knowing where his life is going to lead, only knowing what he doesn't want to do. There is a darkness inside him that he hasn't learnt to control.
In Those Above, we see many different cultures interacting and the way they treat the women in these societies tells you a lot about them as a whole. This can be seen in the differences between Calla and Eudokia. Although Calla is a servant, she has more freedom and equality than most of the other female characters in the story, as everything she knows has been learnt from The Others. The Eternal leader, known as The Prime, is female and they do not see any difference between their males and females, as they are all ferocious on the battlefield and treat each other as equals. Eudokia, on the other hand, is not able to stand for the Senate as a woman but has slowly been building her own power base behind closed doors so that she controls what the Senate decides. It is a lot of fun to see how Eudokia operates and how far her influence extends as she crushes those who oppose or endanger her plans.
My favourite character is Thistle, starting as a disenfranchised boy who with his friends live for the easy score to gain alcohol and money for cigarettes. As Thistle slowly finds his place not only on the fifth rung but maybe also into a larger movement that may change The Roost forever, he grows as a character as he struggles to come to terms with the events that happen around him. Thistle's awareness is juxtaposed with that of Calla who, for all her knowledge, is supremely naive as to the ways of the world, how fragile her position is and how meaningless her life is to those she is pledged to serve. The humans in The Roost are so conditioned to their life there, that even when they are at the bottom they never consider leaving The Roost, although they know there is a whole world out there.
It is really interesting to see how these four characters develop over the course of the novel, whether it is the culmination of plans coming to fruition or forces pulling you into actions you can only foresee as ending badly, characters eyes are opened and destinies are revealed. Those Above is neatly written and when some of the characters see the same events from different perspectives it allows us to see these events in broader terms and how it impacts on each character. With The Others always being written as enigmatic and yet also seen as beyond beautiful to become repulsive, it would be interesting to know the true history of how The Roost began, and why humans are treated as slaves there, is it truly that humans are seen as no more than insects to be used and squashed at The Others pleasure?
Those Above is an intricately woven story that never feels overwrought but brings us deeper into a rich world with a myriad of characters that feel like individuals rather than background filler. This allows us to focus on the motivations of the four characters as their chapters entwine and gain insight into the world they live in which is full of wonders and misery. There is so much detail packed into this first novel and I can not wait to find out what happens in book two.
This Those Above book review was written by Michelle Herbert
All reviews for: The Empty Throne
The Empty Throne #1
They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the cent...
The Empty Throne #2
For centuries beyond counting, humanity has served the Others, god-like Eternals who rule from their cloud-capped mountain-city, building a civilization of unimagined beaut...
Have you read Those Above?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Those Above reader reviews
9/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Never Knew Another
Fugitive Rachel Nolander is a newcomer to the city of Dogsland, where the rich throw parties and the poor just do whatever they can to scrape by. Supported by her brother D...
Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu
Mercedes M Yardley
Her mama always said she was special. His daddy called him a demon. But even monsters can fall in love. Montessa Tovar is walking home alone when she is abducted by Lu, a s...
A flash of light and Detective Joe Dante steps through. No longer on the cobblestone streets of 1961 Boston, Joe finds himself in a horrifying new world-Hell itself. Joe wa...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...
The Dirty Streets of Heaven
Sure, he takes the occasional trip to Heaven, but his job as an advocate - arguing the fate of the recently deceased - keeps him pretty busy on Earth, and he's more tha...
The Hollow City
Michael Shipman is paranoid schizophrenic; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex fantasies of persecution and horror. That's bad enough. But what can h...
Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth tha...
Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she's foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. ...
Deadbeat - Makes You Stronger
Max and Tom are old, old friends, who used to be actors. Tom now owns a jazz nightclub called Deadbeat which, as well as being their source of income, is also something of ...
The Year of the Ladybird
It is the summer of 1976, the hottest since records began and a young man leaves behind his student days and learns how to grow up. A first job in a holiday camp beckons. B...
The Clown Service
The Department: Section 37 Station Office, Wood Green. The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, Cold War-era spy. The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and i...
Nameless: The Darkness Comes
Mercedes M Yardley
Luna Masterson sees demons. She has been dealing with the demonic all her life, so when her brother gets tangled up with a demon named Sparkles, ‘Luna the Lunatic&rsq...
So welcome to Midnight where nothing is what it seems and not knowing everything about your neighbours may end up getting you killed. I enjoy this kind of story, a mystery/...
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcend...
Half-devil and miles from anything resembling heroic, perpetual underdog Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg is the last man standing against Armageddon. As the favorite ...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Best of 2016
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends s...
This Savage Song
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as r...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works. Soon, Hallie is tumbling through...
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...