Those Below by Daniel Polansky

Rating 8.5/10
Full of interesting characters, who have to deal with betrayals, intrigue, war and much more

Two years have passed since the events of Those Above and war is heading towards The Roost. In this story we continue to follow the four main protagonists from the previous book: Calla, the Seneschal of the Prime, formerly known as the Aubade; Pyre, once known as the street thug Thistle, he is now one of the leaders of the Five-Fingered; Eudokia, who has been plotting behind the scenes for so long, she no longer cares who gets hurt for her plans to succeed; lastly Bas Alyates, the God-killer, still fighting for his nation, even though he only sees senseless death in the name of Aeleria.

One of the most interesting things about this story is how naive some of the characters still are. With Pyre, his belief in the cause of the Five-Fingered is very strong and he expects the people who fight along with him to be true believers as well, yet throughout the book, he has to learn that his expectations do not always match those he follows. Pyre knows that he must try his best to succeed in taking down the Eternal and yet has not given any thought to what will happen when they have overthrown the Eternal. This is also true of Calla, who although educated, it is her ignorance that had really kept her safe. Calla never seems to understand how protected from the reality of the rest of The Roost she is. Calla is loyal to the Prime but doesn’t see how unequal she is to Those Above.

Eudokia, compared to the other main characters, is the villain of this story. Orchestrating her revenge on Those Above over decades. Eudokia finally gets to meet the Eternal in their home and see her carefully laid plans come to fruition. Eudokia has always outwitted everyone around her and for the first time in a long time, she finally feels like she is being challenged by Those Above. It seems like Eudokia is almost disappointed by how fallible the Eternal are. The Eternal know that their intellect and ideas are beyond that of humanity, which makes humans seem of no more consequence than locusts. Relentless in the pursuit of her goals, Eudokia has set up webs of intrigue both in Aeleria and in the Roost, where the Eternal do not understand spy craft. Eudokia has made sure that her money and intelligence finds and uses the right people and organisations to spread her influence.

Those Below is an intriguing sequel to Those Above and gives us more insight into the lives of our four main characters and those affected by their actions. As most of the story takes place in The Roost rather than across the continent, it is easier to keep track of what is happening to each of the characters. As the title suggests we spend more time with Those Below, as this is the focus of the novel, which does mean we see less of the Eternal, which is a shame as they are such an intriguing premise, yet at the same time makes them as unfathomable to the reader, as they are to the humans who live in their vicinity.

Those Below is full of interesting characters, who have to deal with betrayals, intrigue, war and much more. This allows for a much darker story and there are dire consequences for some of Polansky’s characters. The story also has one of the most astounding endings I have read in a while, which makes this book worth reading for that alone.

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