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“I thought you would have figured out by now that all I bring to the table is an endless supply of irrationality and sarcasm.” - Cassa
Beneath the Citadel
by Destiny Soria
LGBTQ, Strong Female Character
Prophecies have ruled the city of Eldra for centuries. With each new prophecy, the ruling high council tightens their control on the city, crushing any who would rebel against them. For Cassa Valera, the council and their leader, the chancellor, are her number one targets for revenge. After her parents led a rebellion and were killed, Cassa has been looking for a chance to free the city from the council’s clutches. Along with her friends Evander, Alys, Newt, and Vesper, she hatches a plan to infiltrate the mighty citadel where the council resides.
But even if Cassa and her friends are brave enough to fight against the citadel, their plans won’t go smoothly. The council will hound their every step, as they use their diviners to foresee the future. Old friends will betray them. Their loved ones will be in danger. And most of all, their relationships will be strained.
The fight against the council will be a hard one. Yet, with the unexpected help of a stranger, they may just be able to pull it off. That stranger, however, may turn out to be more monstrous than the council. Will Cassa and her friends be able to save the city they love?
Beneath the Citadel is a fun read that follows the main characters Cassa, Evander, Alys, Newt, and Vesper. The story jumps from each character’s point of view. Each character is unique, with their own realistic troubles and fears. For instance, Alys deals with anxiety that affects her everyday life. Alys’ younger brother, Evander, is afraid he won’t be able to protect his family. Newt was abused by his father, and worries he doesn’t matter to anyone. And Cassa is always afraid that nothing she does will ever matter. But while these characters have flaws and fears, they work to overcome them, making them likable. Readers will root for them to triumph in the end.
While the characters will pull readers in, the plot is strong as well. The plot is simple to understand, but complex enough to make readers think about each character’s actions and decisions. At the start, the group’s goal is simply to take down the citadel, but by the end, each member is fighting against a monster more destructive than the council: a man named Solan. Solan is the main villain who has numerous powers including being able to see the future and steal people’s memories. Readers will enjoy the thrill of watching the four young heroes fight to stop Solan in his tracks before he destroys Eldra.
Overall, Beneath the Citadel has a nice pacing and is a fun read from start to finish. It focuses on the theme of teens dealing with the mistakes of their parents and predecessors, as well as the smaller themes of handling anxiety and discovering a new love. As a standalone novel, everything is neatly wrapped up by the end of the story. Destiny Soria’s novel is a great choice for any reader of YA fantasy fiction.
- Before the start of the story, Evander and Cassa were romantically involved. “They had broken off their romance six months ago. It had been a mutual decision and very amicable, but you don’t just forget almost a year of your life being so closely intertwined with another person’”
- Newt recalls when he first met Evander and Cassa. They were still an item and Newt watched as Cassa turned to Evander and “leaned down and kissed him.”
- Evander is bisexual and falls head over heels for Newt. “Evander had figured out he was bisexual around the same time he’d figured out what sex was. But Newt held a strange fascination for him, ever since their first chance meeting years ago.”
- Newt realizes he has feelings for Evander too. “There was a thrill of new energy inside him, a tingling in his fingertips, and the dawning certainty that one day he was going to fall in love with Evander Sera.” When they’re outside of the city walls, Newt and Evander kiss each other. “It wasn’t Newt’s first kiss, but it was the first one that mattered. His thoughts were deliciously hazy. He was kissing Evander Sera. Evander Sera was kissing him.”
- Evander recalls being beaten during an interrogation. “He’d already earned a few bruises during the interrogation. It wasn’t supposed to be a painful process, but the sentient who was reading his memories hadn’t appreciated his sense of humor and had called in a burly guard to impart the wisdom of keeping his mouth shut.”
- Newt can contort his body in order to get in and out of bad situations. “Newt breathed in deeply through his mouth and, with a wince, popped his left thumb out of its socket. It didn’t hurt, but he’d never grown used to the uncanny sensation.” That contortion takes a toll on his body. “He’d never told them about the alarming frequency of sprains when he didn’t use the braces, that while he could bend his body in fantastic fashion, it came at a price.”
- Alys watches Newt knock out a guard. “She didn’t see Newt until he was only a few feet away from the guard and was swinging something—a lantern—in a high arc toward the back of the man’s head. There was a terrific thump, followed by another thump as the man fell to the floor, his gun clattering beside him.”
- Alys often thinks she’s dead weight. At one point she thinks, “Maybe it would be better if she just died before they caught up. Maybe it would be better if she died now. Maybe it would be better. Maybe it would.”
- When Mira, the Blacksmith’s daughter, performs the blood-bonding ritual on Solan, she has to cut open his arm. “Mira leaned in beside Cassa and slit a long, deep line into the inside of Solan’s left arm, a mirror to Evander’s own scar.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- The group originally sneaks into the citadel in barrels. “The kitchen workers had unknowingly smuggled all four of them into the basement storerooms in barrels of beer that were only half full.”
- Cassa talks to Alys about possibly becoming a legend in the streets of Eldra. Cassa then tells Alys, “We’ll get a whole tavern drunk one night and spread the rumor.”
- Damn, ass and shit are used frequently. For example, when her friends break her out of a prison cell, Cassa says, “Just open the damn door.” Another time, Evander talks to Cassa about her terrible escape plan. “I doubt your half-assed escape plan would work a second time.”
- Bitch and bastard are both used a few times. For example, the Dream Merchant, a man who buys and sells dreams, tells off Cassa. “This is none of your business, you little bitch.”
- The Dream Merchant calls Cassa’s parents, “scum parents.”
- Eldra, and the country it’s a part of, Teruvia, are ruled by ancient prophecies. These prophecies dictate life for the vast majority of people in the city of Eldra. Pretty much everything in Eldra revolves around prophecies, and many characters use these powers to see the future. The Chancellor says, “The teachings laid down by Teruvia’s forefathers tell us that the elder seers saw every thread of the tapestry that is our present and future.”
- There are official gatherings in Eldra to talk about prophecies. For example, “Most of the citadel’s inhabitants would be at the monthly council session, where any new prophecies were discussed and the fulfillment of old prophecies was speculated on.”
- Solan uses runes to foresee Cassa and her friends stumbling across him in the dungeons beneath the citadel. Solan has “known for a while that you [Cassa] would be coming. I saw it in the runes.”
- Bloodbonding is a process by which an individual is magically connected to some metal or other substance. The Chancellor thinks about bloodbonding after meeting with Evander. “With a bloodbond’s complete control over a particular metal, any number of everyday items could become weapons.”
- Evander is bloodbonded to silver. “He could feel the silver like an extension of himself, moving farther and farther away, the connection weakening more and more.”
- People who can manipulate other’s memories, or take them, are called Rooks. Vesper is a rook. She thinks about how “Rooks had to be patient and gentle, so very gentle. Memories were fragile. They could be torn or teased out too thin.”
- When Cassa visits the Dream Merchant, a man who barters in dreams, she’s afraid he’ll take too many of her memories. “She had no doubt that Gaz would try to take far more than the memories she’d offered. And she didn’t know if she’d be able to stop him—or pull away once he’d started.”
- Those that can magically read a person’s immediate past in their face are called sentients. Newt thinks, “He’d heard that skilled sentients could read so quickly and thoroughly that they might as well be reading someone’s mind instead of just their past.”
- In Eldra, people worship the Slain God. Vesper, in a church, listened as, “The choir began to sing a gentle, haunting requiem in Teruvia’s dead language. The tale of the god who had once cradled Teruvia, protecting it from those who, in envy and greed, would do her harm.” Soon after the choir sings, “The tale of their dying god, who used the last of his strength to scatter his omniscience across Teruvia, a gift for the chosen devout few.”
- It is believed the Slain God gave a few people his power, allowing them to foresee the future.
- Before people pass on, they are typically given death rites. Death rites often involve taking one’s memories. Cassa thinks about the practice. “She did know that the devouring of memories was meant to be a cleansing of sorts, a final penitence in honor of the Slain God.”
- Alys thinks about the typical rituals. “Normally, even if someone died without death rites, a priest would be on hand to talk about how every person’s greatest honor is to join the Slain God in blissful oblivion. Candles would be lit and doused at intervals. Sometimes someone would sing a verse from the Slain God’s requiem.”
- Solan very much hates the religion of the Slain God. He tells off the chancellor, saying, “What a strange way of describing the duty that your pathetic religion demands of me.”
by Jonathan Planman