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“Hive against hive. Us against them. Hatred of other. It was sad and it was terrible, but at least it was true.”

The Storm Beneath the WorldThe Storm Beneath the World is a wildly imaginative, morbidly captivating, and slightly unhinged gutpunch of a story that will have you buzzing with equal parts wonder and dread; this is fantasy like you have never read before.

Now, much as I would like to write an entire essay about all the exceptionally intriguing elements that make The Storm Beneath the World one of my favourite reads of this year, I honestly feel like I will never be able to do it justice with my words. This is the type of story that you simply have to experience for yourself to truly understand its utter brilliance; it’s a sensory full-body experience that will leave its mark on you, whether you like it or not.

To me, going blind into The Storm Beneath the World will be the most rewarding and exciting reading experience. All you truly need to know is that it’s got morally gray insect people living on warring creature-islands floating above a raging firestorm, corruptive deadly magical powers, intriguing authentic and alien flora and fauna, a matriarchal society with fascinating flipped gender dynamics, a brutally rigid divided class system, and not one, but TWO cutthroat assassin/spy schools. And honestly, that’s just scratching the surface!

In the hands of a lesser author, I think this extremely ambitious and unique story could very easily have been way too overwhelming to enjoy. Fortunately for all of us, it is Fletcher bringing this story to us, and he damn well nailed its execution. Right from the get-go, I felt completely transported into this wonderfully weird world, and then only continued to get increasingly entranced and awe-struck by its dark allure with each turn of the page.

Exploring the beautifully bizarre ashkaro society and culture in all its glory through the eyes of our four young and struggling protagonists was extremely compelling to me, and I latched onto these tragically disastrous chaos kids way quicker than was probably good for my emotional state. I mean, I am not going to sit here and pretend that I wasn’t afraid I wouldn’t be able to get invested in a story where the entire cast is made up of bug people, but holy smokes, was I wrong for assuming so.

The Storm Beneath the World might not feature any human characters, yet the painfully raw and realistic emotions of all these characters practically bleed off the page, simply demanding you to get sucked into their emotional turmoil right along with them. And because they all come from very different backgrounds and have such distinct personalities, they all offer such an excitingly different and refreshing perspective on their believed reality.

Moreover, their clashing worldviews and life experiences resulted in some of the most compelling character dynamics I have witnessed, including some unexpected alliances and unconventional friendships that really tugged on my heartstrings. And through all of their effortlessly funny interactions, Fletcher’s trademark dark and ironic sense of humour also really gets to shine. Especially Joh’s unfortunate lack of control with his suggestion powers and Shan’s incorrigible vanity, haughtiness, and brutal disillusionment were tragically amusing to me, which balanced out the overall darkness of the story so well.

But what I maybe loved most about reading from their perspectives, is that their general ignorance of the world’s history and lore creates such an alluring air of mystery and intrigue that simply keeps you turning the pages in your hunt for answers. This world is simply buzzing with ancient mysteries and dangerous intrigue, and I adored gobbling up all the little hints and teases right along with our characters.

Though while most of their reality remains an unexplainable and elusive mystery to them, we do get a deliciously in-depth look into the brutally insane magic system through their eyes, which I absolutely adored. I have always said that I am a sucker for magic that comes at a cost, and this might just be one of my absolute favourite executions of that trope.

With the lives of these characters recently having been completely upturned after being outcast as Corrupt due to the discovery of their taboo talents, we get such an emotionally engaging exploration of the horrifying repercussions of their addictive magical powers on both themselves and the people around them. Moreover, seeing them get pulled into the lure when using their powers was such a weirdly captivating and oddly mesmerising experience, which only made this story even more unputdownable than it already was.

In a way, The Storm Beneath the World was so utterly addictive to me that I’d almost think I had discovered my own talent (that being reading this book) and succumbed to the lure myself. I binged this book in two sittings, with the last 40% being devoured in one go, only to then stumble upon such a brutal cliffhanger that made me feel like I had personally been thrown off the edge of a floating island into the raging firestorm beneath the world; and you know what, I am truly revelling in the emotional damage of it all.

Well, would you look at that, I ended up writing an essay-length gush review anyway, who is surprised? The Storm Beneath the World is simply one of the most inventive, unforgettable, and dangerously addictive fantasy stories I have read in a long while. And while it is not as dark and disturbing as Fletcher’s earlier works, it still features some brutally shocking twists and turns, making it just delightfully messed up in all the best ways.

If you are looking for an exceptionally unique and twisted take on a coming-of-age fantasy tale full of flawed yet loveable insectoid protagonists, richly immersive yet intriguingly mysterious world building, tragically ironic dark humour, deadly political intrigue, and cutthroat assassin/spy magical school vibes, then you simply have to check out The Storm Beneath the World; it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Storm Beneath the World is scheduled for release on 5 April, 2024. 

The Storm Beneath the World

The Storm Beneath the World

The Storm Beneath the World

The Storm Beneath the World

The Storm Beneath the World

The Storm Beneath the World

The Storm Beneath the World

The Storm Beneath the World

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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