It’s safe to say that I have very mixed feelings about this book.
I mean, I’m still not sure of whether I should be rating this three or four stars. Because three stars isn’t necessarily a bad rating!! I used to think of it as one, but really… I’ve decided that three stars are actually an okay rating and they don’t necessarily mean that something is bad? (In my rating system)
Okay, yes, looking at Melanie, May, and Elise’s reviews, I have decided that I’m going to go with Elise and rate this three stars! Like I said, that doesn’t mean that this was bad, at all, just that it could have been better, I guess? But I did enjoy this and I probably would recommend it!
Anyways , this shall be a bullet point review! Because I can’t create full-formed thoughts right now and yeah.
Also, some of the links provided are affiliate links meaning that if you purchased from them I would get a small, but helpful (!) sum of money.
Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria
In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.
In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.
Trigger and content warnings for abusive parent, cutting-of-skin, death, poisoning, torture, imprisonment/captivity, grief & trauma, panic attacks, losing a loved one, blood, murder, and medical experimentation.
Specific representation includes fat representation, ace representation, poc rep (not specified), bi rep, gay rep, m/m relationship, and anxiety representation.
it’s a really unique story
- This was unlike a lot of novels which I have read!
- The setting of this novel is this nation called Teruvia… I think? I’m not 100% sure of the name, but anyways, this nation has had leaders that rely on prophecies in order to have an upper hand on other nations.
- There are four basic types of ~born magic~ in the world:
- Rooks can give and take memories with a touch.
- Sentients are descended from rooks and are able to read the past, and sometimes thoughts in people’s faces.
- Diviners have an ability to read small fortunes and near futures, and are descended from seers.
- Seers can read the future?? I think??
- This world was really cool, but this whole distinction of rooks-sentients-diviners-seers was really confusing to me, and just now I had to read the one paragraph that explained all of it probably about five times. I still don’t know the basic definition of seer, okay.
- These words are like all synonyms, how am I supposed to remember this.
- But besides the confusion, I thought that the world was pretty fleshed out and I could totally envision a city beyond the citadel & the citadel itself.
- There’s also another type of magic/power, which is when someone can manipulate pure substances– but they have to go through this process called bloodbonding in which is a very, very painful experience and they kind of need to have the substance injected into them?
- I thought that the aspect of bloodbonding was really cool, and I liked how you needed to go through a specific sacrifice/process in order to gain these powers!
…but i didn’t really care about any of the characters
- I mean, yes this is somewhat like Six of Crows… in that… it has a diverse cast & main group that’s basically like a found family to each other…
- But I mean?? DO I CARE AS MUCH? No.
- Cass is basically the leader of the group and tbh I hated her for like, a good 80% of the book. She’s a person of color, is “fearless” I guess, and is the daughter of famous rebels who were killed by the government.
- She just… felt like the stereotypical girl who’s a rebel!! Fearless!! Her friends always follow her!! Cool!!! Snarky/sassy!! She wasn’t even snarky in a funny way. She was just annoying?? She felt like a manic pixie dream girl, but in fantasy form.
- All of her friends described meeting her like “whoa so cool omg!” and then they’re being roped into this whole scheme/plot because she literally pressured them into it. Their comments were like “I didn’t even want to do this, but Cassa did, so we did it.” EXCUSE ME???? I’m… not a fan. I‘m all for characters joining a scheme for their own personal reasons, but if they don’t even want to do it, then why?
- And then Cassa literally made some of the dumbest decisions, and tbh if it wasn’t for her being TERRIBLE, the main ~plot twist ending~ wouldn’t have even needed to occur??
- She also pressures Alys into using her power as a diviner when Alys specifically has anxiety about it; and then when Alys messes up when divining, Cassa blames Alys?? Like, excuse me.
- (Okay I’m just really frustrated about Cassa here, and it feels like I really hate the book, but it was still mildly good, I promise!!)
- Alys is the genius & alchemist of the group and is a fat ace girl. I know she’s a person of color… but that’s not explicitly said in the story unless you infer that she’s a PoC because of her relation to her brother, Evander. Besides this, I actually really liked reading from her perspective!
- She’s a diviner and is able to read coins but she’s really anxious about it because of reasons (I forgot what they were I’m so sorry) and she doesn’t really divine commonly anymore. She was my second favorite character (my favorite right before I was introduced to Vesper lol).
- Newt is a gay contortionist who experienced an abusive parent who basically forced him into being able to contort his body unnaturally and to have the high level of skill that he has.
- He’s very smol and has basically suppressed his feelings for Evander for a long time (ever since he met Evander, actually) and I love him!!!
- Evander has a bloodbond with silver, is bi, and is Aly’s brother. He’s a PoC and clever and he was forced into thieving from people in the streets because of his parents who were poor.
- He’s incredibly strong and I… don’t remember a lot about him. #yeaaaaaaah.
- Vesper is my absolute favorite character, and she probably redeemed the entire book for me and I just loved her so much!!! Oh my god!!
- She was Cassa’s first friend, in a sense, but she becomes estranged from the rest of the book and her perspectives were genuinely interesting to read. Her uncle is the Chancellor, one of the adults in the corrupt system (the leader, actually) and it really helped to get the viewpoint of the villains in the book.
- Vesper’s perspective provided the moral greyness that I needed in this book. She’s a rook & can give and take memories at will, and so clever I just love her. Also, Cassa hates her for a majority of the book, soooooooooo.
- Also! We had the perspective of the chancellor, which was lowkey pointless because it wasn’t his own perspective that made me like him, but rather Vesper’s. He was mainly there to provide more of an expositional viewpoint of the characters, I guess?? I didn’t really expect his perspective, at all.
- The thing is, though, that we don’t really get to care for the characters as much as I had hoped to. I mean, I feel like this could’ve been told from two pov’s– like Cassa’s (or someone else) and Vesper’s– and we would have basically gained the same knowledge of the story. I felt like the different characters were kind of just there to reinforce what they were doing, but I honestly couldn’t tell the perspectives from each other.
- There were a lot of times where I thought that we were in the perspective of a different character than the actual character who we were in the perspective of??
it’s really light as a fantasy
- I definitely thought this would be a deep, rich fantasy, but it’s more of a light fantasy that… let’s be real… was put-down-able.
- Because I didn’t really care as much for the characters, the plot didn’t feel very high-stakes to me? And so I felt a little disconnected from the fates of the characters themselves.
- This novel being a lighter-fantasy in itself isn’t a bad thing! So I’m not taking off points for that? It was genuinely easy to read and enjoyable!
- I know the end is supposed to be devastating, but I didn’t care as much as I think I should have. I’m definitely upset for sure, but I feel like that ending wasn’t worth the entire book, if that makes sense?
- Also, the m/m romance wasn’t even as good as I expected. Listen, yes they are two soft boys, but like… it was kind of built on a basis of them having a strong friendship in the past?? And then we didn’t even get that many good interactions between them?? MAYBE LIKE TWO.
- And I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to either of the characters. It was very cute, but I wasn’t rooting as hard for them as I wished I did.
- I just wanted Newt to be happy!
- (Okay, this review is really negative & I’m sorry.)
I want to take a moment to recognize the good aspects
- The ending was actually really amazing!! I was taken aback and while it wasn’t an amazing payoff for me, it could definitely be one for you??
- This is an important novel especially in the aspect that there’s some really important & casual representation in a fantasy novel!!
- Also, again, this was a really unique story and premise and I think that it pulled off the aspect of divining & “telling the future” fairly well! I was definitely surprised by everything that happened and overall, this was a wild ride. I definitely recommend reading the reviews that I linked up above (in the introduction) if you want to see more good aspects.