Twenty five years ago mankind mustered an army and rose up against them, only to be slaughtered in a terrible battle. Hope died that day, but hatred survived. Whispers of another revolt are beginning to stir in the hearts of the oppressed: a woman, widowed in the war, who has dedicated her life to revenge; the general, the only man to ever defeat one of Those Above in single combat, summoned forth to raise a new legion; and a boy killer who rises from the gutter to lead an uprising in the capital.
I so wish I had read this book before Red Rising By Pierce Brown (Book 1), but because I didn’t, I couldn’t help comparing one to the other. Again we have a society that’s been split into layered castes where instead of Golds we have an alien species called “The Elites”, we have multiple levels of slaves (humans) and an insurgence that will cause the current ruling power to fall.
The book alternates chapters between the main characters – humans either working in the military, or in the dregs of society or as high-level slaves. You find out more about The Elites, like the fact they only have 4 fingers and are slightly humanoid looking with long feathery hair and long limbs and you learn about the current state of affairs.
Half the book was really boring, discussing politics and power plays and taking the reader into a society which could very well have been placed into the Hellenistic period. With long, flowing garments, equal rights between men and women and the partitioning of power – take out the aliens and you have yourself the introduction to The Odyssey.
Those Above is Polansky’s first foray into what can arguably be described as epic fantasy, and it is a vastly different reading experience to what many people might expect.
Focusing primarily on four different points of view, Polansky takes the reader on a journey of masterful world building and intricate characterisation. We are first introduced to Bas, an army general, early on. Bas is the only human to have ever defeated one of the immortals in combat, and it is this sticking point that makes his character so enthralling. He is brilliantly painted throughout the story, and I adored how he interacted with those around him because of it. Eudokia is also of a similar vein. She is the power behind one of the human thrones and has been setting in play her plans for revenge against the ‘others’ for decades. I particularly liked the political intrigue and manoeuvring that surrounded her chapters, as well as those of Calla, a human assistant and representative for a well placed immortal in court. Calla’s chapters gave me a fascinating insight into the thoughts and motivations of the immortals, and really fleshed out their alien-like nature. The final viewpoint is that of Thistle, a young brawler who is born into poverty and now has to fight for everything in his life.
That being said, nothing really happens in this book. It’s mostly a scene-setter for book 2 (Those Below) which I’ve read shortly after this one and found it marginally more entertaining. I skipped over some of Bas’s chapters as the same thing was happening in them (him fighting a battle or polishing his sword) and found Eudokia to be more entertaining. She’s manipulating all the people around her using just her wits and the power she slowly accumulated over the years.
It is not enough to be intelligent,’ Eudokia said, setting up the pieces for a second game. ‘One must also be vicious.”
Didn’t care for Thistle at all and Calla seemed to be mildly enamoured with her Alien Lord.
What I liked about the book:
The writing is done really well and the use of adjectives and adverbs made the world really come alive under my eyes.
What I didn’t like about the book:
Plot was badly developed, action scenes were weak and there is some badly placed toilet humour in a book that’s supposed to be serious.