Title: Below (North #1)
Author: Alexandria Warwick
Publisher: Wolf Publishing
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
From the author of The Demon Race comes a YA dark fantasy series inspired by Inuit mythology.
In the heart of the frigid North, there lives a demon known as the Face Stealer. Eyes, nose, mouth—nothing and no one is safe. Once he returns to his lair, or wherever it is he dwells, no one ever sees those faces again.
When tragedy strikes, Apaay embarks on a perilous journey to find her sister’s face—yet becomes trapped in a labyrinth ruled by a sinister girl named Yuki. The girl offers Apaay a deal: find her sister’s face hidden within the labyrinth, and she will be set free. But the labyrinth, and those who inhabit it, is not as it seems. Especially Numiak: darkly beautiful, powerful, whose motives are not yet clear.
With time slipping, Apaay is determined to escape the deadly labyrinth with her sister’s face in hand. But in Yuki’s harsh world, Apaay will need all her strength to survive.
Yuki only plays the games she wins.
As time goes by, I find myself looking for more diverse and interesting YA Fantasy books. Specially now that the internet makes it easy for authors to let their target audience know, here we are, we have what you want and are looking for. So, when I received The Fantastic Flying Book Club’s email about this blog tour and saw that this was inspired by Inuit Mythology, I knew I was on-board! And I was taken away by this frigid world of cold and frost.
We are met with Apaay, hunting for food in the early hours to feed her family. She went off without a word to her family because she had something to prove, as she always had for her whole life. Apaay wasn’t the best hunter like her father was, neither the best tracker, nor the prettiest girl in their village. She just wanted something to be proud of, and so she was determined to strike a seal for her family. But her excursion was interrupted when the Face Stealer – a demon that lurked in the places in-between – struck their village and took her sister’s face.
Determined to make her mark in their village, and desperate to get her sister back, she sets off into the unknown all by herself to find the Face Stealer’s lair and retriever her sister’s face. She journeyed up north and finds herself in a mysterious place, in the hands of a mysterious girl named Yuki. Apaay must play into Yuki’s games inside a magical labyrinth if she wants to succeed.
The world building that Alexandria Warwick did for this book was just absolutely wonderful. I’ve lived in a tropical country my whole life and have only ever experienced winter in certain countries, and not the kind where I can’t see anything else but white. But, with the way the author talked about the climate and conditions of the book, I felt like I was transported in the snowy mountains, probably wearing 12 layers of clothing to keep myself warm. The author’s atmospheric and lyrical prose was on point.
A big interesting factor of Below is the Inuit Mythology inspiration, and I must confess that I am not an expert on this prior to reading the book but that was a very intriguing reason why I read it. And once again, the author didn’t skimp out. The Inuits are indigenous people from Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. They are the ones who make their homes in the arctic parts of these countries and have distinct cultures and way of life. One of my favorite aspects of Below that was inspired was the Inuit way is how they name their family. It wasn’t just picking it out from a list, there was a proper tradition and ritual to selecting their name which was very interesting and distinct. Aside from that, Alexandria Warwick took the time to explain how rich the world is as well with the 4 distinct villages in the book, which is somewhat mirroring the Inuit villages that are still present currently. It was a fantastic experience on how broad the world of the North is.
Now let me tell you about Apaay. She was the character that I had disliked at first, but then she crawled her way to my soul and held on tight. During the beginning, she seemed selfish and cruel to me. Apaay wanted to prove something to the village, to her family, to the point where she made choices that ultimately led to disaster. And then, we see her make this selfless decision to journey to a place that she didn’t know, what existed there, and what sort of danger was she really putting herself into. We see her love for her family shining above anything else and her resilience, putting everything on the line to save her sister. She was physically, emotionally, and mentally broken inside the labyrinth but she never gave up. And even if she did get to a point where she let her doubts get her, Apaay had a self realization that, she was enough. She didn’t need anyone else’s validation that she was strong, courageous, resourceful, and resilient.
The Face Stealer and Yuki were also formidable characters in the story. The Face Stealer was very mysterious, there wasn’t really much that was divulged about him. The same goes for Yuki. Which I would have wanted a little more of, Alexandria Warwick gave enough crumbs for me to eat up, and I hope that there will be more in the succeeding books. I just felt like there could have been more to their motivations, their history and background. Otherwise, very great villains. Also!!! I’ve been watching Avatar and I can attest to Alexandria being a huge fan, the Face Stealer was in one of the episodes! I absolutely loved that.
Overall, Below is such a great set up for what is going to be a dark, cold, and enchanted world. It is about finding real friendship in the darkest places, a deep love for family, and self acceptance that you are enough. There was humor, and struggle, and wonder between the pages that made me cry. And dare I say, my best read of January 2020.
Special thanks to The Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on the tour, Wolf Publishing for a copy of the arc, and Alexandria Warwick for the wonderful book.
Alexandria Warwick is the #1 fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender. She is the author of The Demon Race and the upcoming North series.
Follow the rest of the blog tour with the Fantastic Flying Book Club team! Click the banner below for the full list of bloggers and their reviews!
There is a tourwide giveaway for US only and International fans! Click the link below for the rafflecopter link.
Prize #1: Win (1) signed paperback copy of BELOW by Alexandria Warwick (US Only)
Prize #2: Win (1) e-copy of BELOW by Alexandria Warwick (INT)
Starts: 29th January 2020
Ends: 12th February 2020