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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.

308 pages, Paperback

First published February 4, 2020

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About the author

Alexandria Warwick

9 books393 followers
Alexandria Warwick is the author of the North series, the Four Winds series, and The Demon Race. A Florida native, Alexandria spends much of her time performing in orchestras, drinking tea, or obsessing over Avatar: The Last Airbender. To find out more, visit alexandriawarwick.com or follow @alexandriawarwick on Instagram.

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5 stars
88 (45%)
4 stars
56 (29%)
3 stars
27 (14%)
2 stars
12 (6%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 67 reviews
Profile Image for Umairah (Sereadipity).
212 reviews108 followers
June 20, 2019
Below was a tale of love, brutality and how love can survive despite brutality. It was inspired by Inuit mythology, and it engulfed me in an unceremonious world of snarling frost and piercing cold and took me on the most enchanting ride.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5

How do we define our identities? Is it our faces? Our families? Our heritages? Our cultures? Our names? The legacies we leave behind? The lies and truths we tell ourselves? It's all of these things and more. This book explored the idea of who we are when all of these fundamental things are stripped away from us, what is left to cling on to, what kind of lives we can lead if we don't know who we are or have people around us to witness their passing.

The protagonist was Apaay, who was constantly trying to prove herself to the world and never feeling as if her efforts were enough. She wasn't the strongest hunter or the most skilled tracker in her village, she wasn't the cleverest or the kindest or the most beautiful. All she wanted was to be recognised and praised for something- to prove that she wasn't useless. She loved her family and she wanted to make them proud and be able to support them no matter what.

One day, the mysterious demon called the Face Stealer struck her village and stole Apaay's sister's face, leaving her with only two tiny slits on her face for breathing. Torn apart by grief, sorrow and anger and the desperate desire to prove her worth, Apaay set off across the tundra to find the Face Stealer's lair and retrieve her sister's face. However, to accomplish her mission, she must play the games of a twisted girl named Yuki and the Face Stealer and navigate her way through a magical labyrinth.

Apaay was an amazing character and I admired her strength and determination. She was physically and emotionally battered, bruised, burnt and broken in every way but she never gave up. Her love for her sister very literally sent her to the ends of the earth. Along the way, she also went on a journey of self-discovery and realised that she was enough as she was. She didn't need to be the best tracker or hunter or the kindest person in her village. She didn't need to try to be someone she was not because she already was formidable in her own right- she just never realised it. She was fierce, courageous, resilient, resourceful and she persevered no matter what.

Below was an original and imaginative novel- it was impossible to predict what fantastically terrifying predicament would befall Apaay next. It's a book that I would definitely recommend and I'm so excited for the next book in the series!

Thank you to the author for providing me with an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for ✨faith✨trust✨pixiedust✨.
398 reviews363 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 27, 2020
I received this eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of this book in any way.

DNF at ~36%

I really didn't want to DNF this but I really just couldn't read much more. It was kind of a drag and I really had to force myself to get through much at all. The first few chapters were promising, and there were definitely some solid set pieces and sequences in this that I did enjoy, but over all, I couldn't connect with it.

The characters were one dimensional. "Yuki" isn't a menacing name but she isn't scary enough as an antagonist to merit any juxtaposition. She feels, if anything, like an extremely obnoxious spoiled brat but not enough to be thematically interesting; only enough to make me want to stop reading. I actually have a character in my current WIP that's fairly similar in role and personality, and Yuki felt like what she would be if I went with the first idea I had for her. Which was kind of a bad idea when I didn't know what to do with her.

Besides her, Apaay, the main character, was okay. She's afraid of being undervalued by her family and community, which is what is happening to her, so she wants to prove herself. But she tries to do that by going off on her own. Her dog comes briefly but then she's alone again. She's teamed up with a great deaf rep friend, but then she's alone again. I thought this might all be going somewhere--that there might be something here about how you need to value yourself first and be willing to rely on others when you need to--but then it just rinsed and repeated and I got tired of waiting.

And then there's the obvious love interest spook-boi, the Face-Stealer. I thought he was cool at first--his concept is awesome--but I'm sick and tired of Rhysands in my dark fantasy and I knew his ~tortured past~ revelation was coming, so I decided to jump ship before I'm put through that again. If anyone has finished this and there isn't any angsty love story between the two, please let me know. I might reconsider my DNF. Maybe.

The plot was extremely slow and boring. Nothing happens for a long time, and when things do happen, I usually can't tell why they're happening, so I end up spending more time confused, trying to figure out what the impetus for the scene is instead of just enjoying myself. I honestly would have read this faster and maybe not DNF'd, but I found myself constantly accidentally skimming, and then having to go back because I'd read an entire page without absorbing anything at all. I literally don't know why Yuki does the things she does, and not in the mysterious way I think was intended. Rather, I'm stuck trying to understand the basic logic of her plan, and left grasping at straws.

I know the setting is in a tundra but there's way too many references to random ice related imagery. It borders into purple prose territory far too often without actually saying anything meaningful. The same goes for the action scenes in general. There was a lot of imagery based metaphors so I literally had no idea what anything was supposed to actually look like or how Apaay was supposed to be feeling. The "labyrinth" didn't come across as labyrinthine to me. Whether things were physically hot or cold, I couldn't tell whatsoever because the writing was conflicting on that. The worldbuilding was pretty unclear; the world itself was slightly oddly explained and had zero presence, and besides that, some random magical gifts were introduced way later than they should have been. There were some completely random and pretty unnecessary exposition dumps in the middle of tense character moments that killed the pacing. Sometimes the third person narration would do little onomatopoeia things that only sometimes work in first person. It really threw me whenever it happened. And usually made what wasn't comical feel like it was supposed to be a joke.

I'm glad this was inspired by Inuit mythology but it honestly felt more like an edgy Katara going on an adventure on the Island of the Blue Dolphins with the amount of canoe making and parka wearing. This isn't bad, it just wasn't what the premise made me think I was getting.

All in all, maybe you'll like it. Most people seem to. Lowkey sad I didn't. If I were to rate this (I prefer not to rate DNFs unless I feel extreme vitriol), I'd go with maybe 3 stars, maybe 2. 2.5-ish.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
984 reviews113 followers
June 18, 2019

Wow, this book was certainly something. I do have to admit that the start was sort of slow for me, which is why I couldn't give it a full four star rating because I struggled a little to get really into it but once I reached the 50% mark in the story it was pretty hard to put down. The fact that the story was inspired by Inuit mythology is something I absolutely loved because it isn't something I've come across yet in any of the books I've read.

Below featured the very complex but fascinating world of the North with Apaay as its main character. When a demon who is known as the Face Stealer steals the face of her sister, Apaay is determined to find it and kill the demon for all the suffering he has caused to so many others before but instead she becomes trapped in a labyrinthine place by a cruel girl named Yuki where nothing really is what it seems.

I loved Apaay! I really do think she's one of the best main characters I've ever come across and I'm not saying this lightly. She was so determined in everything she did, especially in the search for her sister's face. She would simply not give up no matter what was thrown at her or how much they made her suffer. Her strenght was inspiring to say the least.

The writing style was probably one of my favorite things about this book as well. I'm a sucker for beautiful prose. It wasn't just a beautifully writting book but it was action packed as well. A lot happened in the story, it was actually funny at times but also very tragic and made me want to cry at one point. I'm pretty sure anyone else who has read the book will know what I mean.

Overall, Below by Alexandria Warwick is an epic dark YA fantasy adventure about family, friendship, loss and determination. Inspired by Inuit mythology, it's quite the page turner that'll keep you hooked and make you root for Apaay to succeed in her mission.
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews989 followers
May 25, 2019

Actual rating: 2.5 stars

Below is presented as a dark YA fantasy inspired by Inuit mythology. Honestly, I had no clue about the Inuit mythology before I picked this book up, but I can say that the premise is true: Below is really dark and cold - frigid - and the Inuit culture plays a significant role in the story.

Below starts with the main character Apaay hunting for food to feed her family at the hardest time of winter. But her hunting is interrupted by the news that the Face Stealer - a North Demon - stole her sister's face. After that Apaay is set on finding the demon, killing him and taking her sister's face back whatever it takes. Easy-peasy, right? But of course, the journey will turn out more than Apaay could've expected, considering she was expecting a lot of trouble.

To say that Below's concept is very intriguing would be true. To say that the execution is up to expectations would be half-true. What I wanted from Below is to be dark, mysterious and full of treacherous adventures. But in truth, it turned out more a repetitive book: there was a lot of walking, talking, inner monologues and so little needed movement - a direction the story could've taking turning into one of the most exciting original books I've read. Alas, it did not happen. I found myself lost amidst snow and cold, and, at some point, I was drifting away in my thoughts to more exciting things like do I need to do laundry or go shopping? Riiiight, these are not exciting thoughts, but at one moment, they were more exciting than the book.

I quite admired Apaay's courageous attempts to save her sister; her loyalty to her friends. I was intrigued by the Face Stealer and his motives. I loved the writing: really deep and suiting the concept, Alexandria Warwick has her own style that makes her stand out. But there's a huge BUT. At some point, all Appay's adventures started to feel repetitive, the villain just felt one-dimentional without a solid reason to act the way they acted, and the explanation of their actions was not convincing enough to make them a strong villainous character. The Face Stealer lost his appeal the moment he started to turn into a damaged hero with his own secret agendas. I mean, I love anti-heroes, but this one lacked the devious I-don't-care-attitude that usually helps me to connect with my anti-heroes and gives start to their development: I was like that but something gave me a push to change. And as this book was compared to The Cruel Prince by the author I would say that I was waiting for someone like Cardan who didn't give a fig at first but started to change as the story progressed. I don't like ex-deus machina reasons for my anti-heroes to be good from the beginning but acting badly. It doesn't work for me after thousands of similar young adult books.

All in all, Below would suit to those readers who want to immerse themselves in something new and unexplored. But do not expect revelations from the story and be prepared to get bored at some point. The writing will soften the blow of disappointment, and the ending might be the beginning of the story we all have been waiting from book 1. The sequel has its promises. We can only hope it will deliver.

*ARC was kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*

Profile Image for Ashlee » libraryinthecountry.
775 reviews643 followers
February 3, 2020
Below is the perfect snow-day read. Inspired by Inuit-mythology it follows a young woman searching to restore her sister’s identity and find her own self worth.

After Apaay’s village is attacked, she is horrified to learn that the whispered about Face Stealer, a demon of unknown power, has stolen her sister’s face. Feeling as though she is the only one who cares of her sister’s fate, Apaay ventures into the wild to find the Face Stealer domain and recover what was stolen.

Enriched with beautiful, descriptive prose and a fully-imagined frozen North, this book carries a narrative that is strongly character driven.

Apaay finds herself on a journey of self discovery and learns her own perceptions of wielding power and suffering aren’t quite as black-and-white as they seem.

My favorite character in this was the Face Stealer. He is incredibly complex and the whole time I was reading I couldn’t wait to get to the next scene that involved him. I constantly wanted to know more about his motivations, his history and loved the little glimpses we were given into his character.

I did find the plot to be somewhat slow initially and repetitive overall, it bogged me down a little here and there. However, I also feel as though this was an important part of part of Apaay’s journey. She was given many chances to achieve her goal and it was only through those chances that she ultimately came to the culmination of her journey in this story.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next, with North. It definitely didn’t end how I expected, but I love the ending!

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews506 followers
January 29, 2020
January 29, 2020:

Below is a dark fantasy sprawled on a sheet of snow and ice which successfully lays down the thrill of walking all alone in search of something but isn't very successful in giving depth to the characters. An immensely strong sisterly bond definitely leads to the risk of dwelling in the villain's territory and the wonderful writing gives another reason to continue reading this. However, the slow pacing and the lack of intense motives forces the reader to rethink their decision of picking up this fantasy set in an Arctic region and inspired by Inuit mythology.

November 23, 2019: I usually sell myself for dark fantasy books but when it says 'Inuit mythology', I'm completely sold! Super excited to read this as part of a blog tour by FFBC Tours. Thank you, Wolf Publishing for the review copy! This doesn't, in any way, affect my rating and/or review.
Profile Image for Alicia (Alicia Reads It).
200 reviews32 followers
February 16, 2020

When the author contacted me about reviewing this book for her, she described it as 'dark fantasy' which i was slightly hesitant to pick up. I love a good fantasy though, so I had her send it to me to give it a try. It did NOT disappoint. Below is such a unique and compelling story!

Below is set in the Arctic and is based on Inuit Mythology-something I knew absolutely nothing about before reading this. The culture is fascinating though, and I am bound to wind up delving deeper into learning more about them. I found that Warwick seemed very knowledgeable in this aspect of the book. It was also a very unique setting, which made it such an intriguing read.

Apaay is our MC and she is bold and often finds herself in unexpected or dangerous situations because of it. Apaay never gives up though, and one of my favorite things about this novel was how truly steadfast and loyal she was to her family. I really enjoyed Apaay's character and following her on this journey of personal growth.

The Face Stealer was a great anti-villain. He is intimidating and dangerous, but there is also a sort of deep emotional connection you feel toward him, and i'm not sure why yet. I feel that we will get to know more about him and his story in the next book.

Yuki was a great villain to the story, and I found that while I liked The Face Stealer, I did not like Yuki. She was also intimidating and dangerous in her own ways, but I felt less of a connection to her on an emotional level. I feel that she is the true villain to this story and may not have any redeeming qualities, but I guess we will see.

The plot felt very unique and well done. I did have slight trouble in the beginning with getting into the story, but I feel like that happens to me with all first books in a new series. The world-building can sometimes feel sluggish. After about 40 pages though, I could not put it down. I love that Warwick infused her characters with these powerful growth moments and points in the novel where they each really shine and show their inner strength in the face of adversity. Like I said before, I also loved the themes of family loyalty throughout the book. It felt so easy to read and to connect with the story and characters. This story though is also quite intense. It has a lot of dark and emotional moments-life and death situations, but even with that, I felt that the story still shined with hope.

Overall, I really liked this one, and recommend it to any fantasy and dark fantasy readers. I look forward to the next book in this series!

*Special thanks to Alexandria Warwick for sending me an advanced print copy of the book in exchange only for my honest thoughts and review*

Alicia Reads It

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Profile Image for Alexandria Warwick.
Author 9 books393 followers
July 9, 2021
I'm so excited for this book!!

Using this as a place to share more information about Below. Be sure to check back for updates!

Read the first 6 chapters FREE! Click HERE to start reading.

11/5/19: Pre-order Campaign

Below is up for pre-order! For complete information, FAQs, and to upload your pre-order receipt, go HERE.

Below, which releases on February 4, 2020, will be available in eBook and paperback. The eBook will be at a reduced price of $2.99 throughout the pre-order period but will go up to its regular price of $3.99 on release day. There are two pre-order bonuses, depending on what format of Below you buy. Both are open internationally! The pre-order form will close on February 3, 2020 at 11:59 pm EST.

Tier 1: Digital Swag Pack

Everyone who pre-orders Below will receive the digital swag pack, regardless of what format (eBook or paperback) you purchase. All of the digital swag is exclusive to this pre-order campaign, meaning that it will only be available for the people who pre-order.

Your digital swag pack will include:

*The complete annotations of Below
*An extended scene from Below
*Inuit resources used for research
*Early art inspiration/images/aesthetics
*Two scenes from the North series book 2 (title to be announced)

Tier 2: Physical Swag

This is for everyone who orders the paperback of Below. If you pre-order the paperback, you will receive the digital swag pack in addition to this physical swag:

*One (1) signed limited edition World of the North card

*Available while supplies last.

Pre-order the eBook here:

Barnes & Noble
Apple Books

Pre-order the paperback here:

Barnes & Noble
The Book Depository
Your local indie bookstore
Your local library

5/18/19: ARC requests for Below are now closed.

Thank you to everyone who filled out the form. Follow me on Goodreads or Instagram for future updates and ARC opportunities. :)

About Below
This story is like an ode to childhood me, the girl who lost herself in survival stories. Hatchet, Julie of the Wolves, Far North, White Fang, Island of the Blue Dolphins--I can go on! Throw in a demon who steals faces, a twisty labyrinth, sisterly love, and an Arctic-inspired setting, and you have my favorite story written to date.
Profile Image for Ehly.
165 reviews8 followers
February 8, 2020
I finished this book exactly one year ago and I just realised I never posted my review which is super dumb of me and I'm sorry.

First, I wanna say thank you to the author for sending me an E-ARC of this book in exchange for a review. I literally requested it as soon as I read the summary because goddamn that looked like exactly the type of story I'd enjoy! And I did like some things but overall it just wasn't the book for me.

The ideas are SO interesting! The face stealer, the setting, all this snow, FUCK YEAH. But other than the potential it had, I just wasn't into the characters and the story in itself. I thought the time progression was weird and a little jarring. I thought the internal conflict our main protagonist has to face wasn't realistic and I didn't feel much for her. Though I must admit, her actually having to deal with REAL injuries felt refreshing compared to a lot of books in which the main characters have to go through so much but still get out of all the dangerous situations with merely cuts and bruises. In this book, it felt like the danger was real.

I wasn't really a fan of the villain(s). While the face stealer thing is really interesting the character in itself didn't do anything for me. The motivation of the main bad guy was so unclear and I know we'll probably learn more in the next book but I wish we could've learned more in this one.

Anyway I'm sorry this review is super late. I'm probably not gonna read the sequel but I'm still happy I got to read this book as an E-ARC.
Profile Image for Anna Maria.
57 reviews4 followers
March 24, 2019
After reading only the first chapter my excitement for this book skyrocketed. There isn’t a better setting for me than the dark, cold ones with many mysteries and secrets in them. I kind of got ‘Beyond the Wall’ (GoT) vibes, which is my favorite part of the show. So yes, my expectations were REALLY high.

The setting and atmosphere are great and they’re basically what I liked the most. What didn’t really do it for me was the actual plot. I wouldn't exactly call it boring but it did move slow for most of the book with not so many exciting moments in between. What saved the book for me was, as I mentioned above, the setting, the labyrinth was interesting and I enjoyed discovering it's secrets, and the characters. And that brings me to the next strong part of the book, the characters.

The author did a great job creating her characters. They were complex with many layers to discover beneath. Not a single moment I stop wanting to learn more about the secrets every character had and understand them better. What I liked the most was that they weren't black and white or pure good and pure evil characters. Even the ‘Bad Guys' aren't evil just for the sake of being evil, but rather you can understand why they act the way they do, because we get to know and explore their background a bit.

At the end this book left me with mixed feelings. I probably feel more disappointed from the book because I absolutely loved some parts but didn't find the plot engaging enough. Still, Below is a book that I would recommend, as it has some really strong elements.

Many thanks to the author for sending me a free copy. This is my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Julia Carlton.
99 reviews43 followers
Want to read
January 1, 2020
Well excuse me, but, whoever designed this cover is a G.E.N.I.U.S! I haven't seen something both unique and pretty in ages. I'm sold. <3
Profile Image for Shannon.
Author 2 books191 followers
July 10, 2019
Follow the Map Scavenger Hunt of Below on Instagram! Tomorrow I will post a piece of the map, don't miss out

Profile Image for Rendz.
373 reviews25 followers
September 4, 2019


*I was provided an advanced copy by the author*

The Likes
I really enjoyed reading from Apaay’s POV. I thought she was such an interesting character. She was someone who was always striving to be enough but finding herself continuing to let down those she wanted to impress the most. She had so much heart and love that she didn’t see just how spectacular she truly was.

I’m not very familiar with Inuit mythology, but I definitely want to know more after reading this book. I was definitely hesitant about reading this book because as far as I am concerned the author is not of Inuit descent (I may be wrong). However from what I read, I think the book is well researched and the use of magic and myth is very interesting. The Face Stealer was definitely my favourite character and the actual depiction of the effects of his powers was scary to think about as much as it was enthralling to read about! I also loved to hate Yuki! A villain in the form of a child with knowledge that extends generations, so so wicked!

I thought the story was very unique. It is a tale of sisterly love and self-discovery. There were so many moments of heartbreak and suffering, so be aware that this book definitely packs the punches and pulls the heartstrings!

The ending was satisfactory and yet not at the same time. And not in a bad way per se. I was very much pleased with the direction the story took at the end there, but I was also left wanting a lot more!!!

The Questionable
The pace is what really got me. The story is quite slow and quite repetitive. It is not exactly the fastest quest narrative because there are a lot of stalled moments. There are not many action scenes and the thrilling ones don’t last very long. A lot of the book takes a big focus on the mental and psychological state of Apaay as she goes through these devastating trials in her life, which was actually very interesting to read about. I had just hoped for a quicker movement and flow of the story.

Overall, this was a good story. It is definitely unique and something I have never read before. It is a story of sisterly love, of proving ones-self and myth all set in the cold, deep north. While the pace is slow, the psychological and emotional journey of Apaay is surely one to interest many!

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Recommend: Yes, especially since Apaay is such a great character!
Profile Image for Iman.
170 reviews24 followers
March 5, 2019
ARC received for an honest review.

This book is so good. It is perfect in every way. I don't even know what to say. The characters are all so intricately created and protrayed it was hard not to feel everything they did. The worldbuilding had me in awe. The setting is very complex, especially with some fantastical elements, so being able to describe everything so well is amazing.

There are so many quotes I loved in this book but here are some of my favourites:
Don’t ever stop caring.” Voice pitched low, she whispered, “You love so fiercely. With your whole heart. That’s where your strength comes from. Not from your skill in hunting. Not from tracking. Here.” She pressed her palm against Apaay’s breastbone. “Always remember that.”
She did not fear other people’s pain.
I will carry your heart in my heart.
Does one crush a flower in winter?
"People like us?” he said, voice hard. “We’re not meant to be loved."

I recommend this to everyone. It has so much loss, friendship, family and love. And I cannot wait for the next one!

Profile Image for Toya (the reading chemist).
1,133 reviews98 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 16, 2020
Um, no. This book is literally a mash up of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. Remember when Ang has to go up against the Face Stealing Demon on his spiritual quest? Yeah, that’s the main premise of the plot. I know the author is a self proclaimed fan, but even the names within this book are literally from those series! I mean, come on. Who didn’t catch this?! I’d much rather go watch those two shows rather than keep reading another page of this book that is completely ripping that concept off.
Profile Image for Donna.
196 reviews36 followers
January 31, 2020
Review is first published on biblioxytocin.wordpress.com

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.
Profile Image for Lauren James  (storied.adventures).
369 reviews40 followers
November 18, 2019
Full review on my blog, Storied Adventures

*Thank you so much to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*
*Put this under retellings even though its technically mythology*

First of all, this book made me cry and I NEVER cry from books.
Second, I really enjoyed this book! Apaay faced sever weather, fighting wild animals, surviving nightmare's come to life, surviving being a prisoner, and losing her family. It was very intense at some parts! I wanted some more information on what Yuki and The Face Stealer are, but I guess that saves some mystery for book 2! I can't wait for book 2!
Profile Image for Aleena.
239 reviews29 followers
November 30, 2020
This one's pretty good!

Below is a tale reminiscent of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Tam Lin, and Inuit culture and mythology. A demon called the Face Stealer haunts the lands where Apaay and her family lives, and when he strikes their village and steals her sister's face, Apaay is determined to go after him and bring it back. She sets out on a journey that takes her to the in-between, where she is captured and thrown into an icy labyrinth of tricks and terrors inflicted by a girl named Yuki, who cares nothing for anyone but herself. And beside Yuki is always the Face Stealer, beautiful and dangerous-- and who knows what he cares for?

This was shaping up to be my most anticipated for 2020, and I was lucky to receive an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

There's a lot of good, and for most of it I was on track to rate it 5 stars, and possibly to even have a new favorite. The setting is cold and biting, harsh and beautiful. Wind and snow so cold you can feel it. The labyrinth is fascinating, I honestly wish we could have explored it more. Gave me hardcore Snow Queen vibes and I love that crap.

Apaay is a great protagonist, stubborn and independent, loving deeply and wanting nothing more than to prove herself to others after constantly being underestimated. I really enjoyed understanding her culture-- the history the Analak people keep in their hair with bones and tokens, the name-soul, the sacredness of all life. Made for a fascinating and beautiful backdrop.

The Face Stealer, named Numiak, is sufficiently mysterious with a freakin' awesome power, and he's not just a Hot Broody Bad Boy™ who does nothing. He speaks, he banters. He even seems to help Apaay-- but his reasons remain unclear.

Ila is my favorite. A prisoner most of her life, she's innocent and timid, but strong and loyal and loving. She is deaf, which makes her relationship with Apaay special since Apaay knows how to sign because of her deaf grandmother. They keep each other going, tell each other jokes, save each others' lives. Friendship goals.

And of course, Inrick. I thought at first he was a love interest for Ila, which would have been so sweet. But it became clear he served a different purpose.

Which brings me to why 4 stars instead of 5.

I saw the twist coming far ahead. I wasn't mad about it, it's what I would have done if I were Warwick. And I assumed that there would be an even bigger twist to offset the one I guessed I guess I just wish that we got to explore Yuki and the Face Stealer's motives. Because it really just seems like they're doing things for the sake of it. Yuki's evil because she wants to be (she's been hurt before, wah), and Numiak

At any rate, I really enjoyed it and I'm definitely bought in to the series. Can't wait to see where Warwick goes with this in the next one (which I have to wait like over a year for!) but until then I absolutely recommend giving this one a read.
Profile Image for Jordan (Forever Lost in Literature).
818 reviews104 followers
July 8, 2019
Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!

Last year I read, reviewed, and loved Alexandria Warwick's debut fantasy novel The Demon Race, so when she contacted me about her upcoming North trilogy, I was immediately and eager to read the first book. Below has proved to be another ambitious and compelling story by Warwick that I had a wonderful time reading and now can't wait to continue the trilogy.

Below is set int he Arctic among the Inuit, a group of people that I have become interested in learning about as of late and whose mythology and culture I find deeply fascinating. I really appreciated how Warwick managed to weave in elements of Inuit culture in ways that felt natural and respectful, it's clear that Warwick went into this book having done her research and ready to craft a story that incorporates these elements into an exciting fantasy setting.

Apaay is a bold and seemingly unafraid young woman who is constantly thrust into frightening and unexpected situations, yet remains steadfast even in the face of danger. No matter how intimidating or impossible some situations seem, she never truly gives up and is always loyal to both herself and others. I really enjoyed getting to know Apaay and following her through this book, as she really undergoes a lot of strong personal development that Warwick carefully showcases and expands upon as various events occur.

The Face Stealer and Yuki are both great villains with a lot of depth to each of them. Yuki is easily the more vocally cruel and intimidating of the two, as she lieks to play games with those who end up at her labyrinth and is unafraid to inflict harm or shame on those before her. The Face Stealer is equally as intimidating as Yuki in many ways, though he is much more dangerous due to the powers that he holds and how he enacts his own power over others. Both characters are deeply conflicted and the Warwick carefully unfolds more and more about them, allowing the reader to more fully understand some of their actions and what led them to where they are now.

The thing that I have loved the most about Warwick's books is how her stories aren't just about the plot and how the characters get through whatever present danger they're facing: they are also about how these characters find inner strength, how they grow and learn to understand the world, and how the themes are relevant not only to the characters' lives, but to our own lives as well. There is a lessont o be learned in everything and Warwick weaves this in in such a deft way that you never really notice. The characters are all crafted so carefully and with such detail to background and character development that it's easy to get inside their heads and feel connected to them.

Below is intense and not afraid to throw some punches. This book is filled with a lot of intense and emotionally challenging moments that really establishes the severity of these life or death situations that occur. Despite these moments of despair, what I love about Warwick's writing and her characters is that there are often constant underlying current of hope littered throughout. When a situation feels hopeless or impossible to navigate out of, there is still some reason to believe that maybe, just maybe there is still a way out. I don't see that sort of hope a lot, so it was a nice refresher to see here.

Overall, I've given Below four stars! I can't wait to continue the trilogy and would highly recommend this to anyone interested in a dark YA fantasy inspired by Inuit mythology!
Profile Image for Andi.
279 reviews8 followers
April 20, 2021
A self-pubbed YA fantasy adventure of a very different flavor, based on Inuit mythology from Nunavut, Canada.

Trigger warnings for animal death, survival horror, body horror, imprisonment, and violence.

I'll admit that a combination of the gorgeous cover and the promise of a fantasy based in Inuit mythology and culture is what made this book catch my interest. Beyond those obvious things, the main thing I appreciated about Below was how focused it was on the character of our MC, Apaay. Warwick really makes sure that this whole adventure wraps snugly around Apaay's character development and her journey towards self-actualization. This development happens entirely separately from the implied love interest, which was really nice, and Apaay even gets to make a lot of her own mistakes along the way. I thought Apaay's concept was really great, especially for YA fantasy.

I also really appreciated the darkness of this fantasy. It reminded me of the darkness of more widely-known fairytales, only with the unforgiving brutality of a retelling like East. It made for a truly harrowing and unpredictable story.

I also liked the myriad of side characters and their relationships to Apaay. It was just nice to have the MC have so many different connections with so many different people that help and hinder her in different ways.

I could tell that Warwick did a lot research to make this story happen, and I think it's great that she put in that effort and wanted to write this story so badly.

I liked all of Apaay's female relationships, particularly her relationship with Ila, and her somewhat messy relationship with her sister Eska. I do wish we'd gotten more out of her relationship with Chena, especially because the fact that Chena gets captured later on in the book is glossed over weirdly easily. Maybe it just felt like that because , but even still, Apaay never seemed to feel much urgency for Chena in the moment.

Below is full of lots of great, dark, and magical ideas. I do think that the execution of those ideas in the final product was pretty rough on many fronts, though.

Warwick's overall writing style has some truly gorgeous moments, and you can tell at which points in the story that Warwick's passion for her message and characters is truly shining and overflowing. The writing was still overall pretty jagged though, uneven in its balance, insecure in what it was describing and when, and full of lots of stilted and uncomfortable dialogue. I often found it difficult to figure out what was happening to a character from one paragraph to the next, like there were pieces of writing cut out from between these paragraphs that had described more transitions, movements, what scenery looked like, what a character was seeing, and other typically less essential things. But the absence of these things in so many scenes ended up making for a story that was extremely difficult to visualize and very challenging to follow from moment to moment. It felt like the whole book needed another line-editing pass to make the writing clearer and better-flowing.

The pacing of this book was dragged down quite a lot by Apaay having lots of circular, repetitive conversations with herself in her head in the scenes between bigger plot beats, and by otherwise cohesive scenes and moments constantly getting interrupted by Apaay's inner monologue talking to us about things that have nothing to do with what's happening in-story at a given time. However, weightier, plot-important events were often sped through, especially at the beginning and the end.

On a more macro or plot level, there was a bunch of stuff that was hard to follow, or simply wasn't executed in a way that made sense. I really struggled with what the labyrinth was supposed to be, how the mirrors worked, how Apaay kept getting healed from crippling injuries again and again, where Apaay was and what these places looked like from moment to moment in Yuki's dwelling, and the nature of Ila's relationship with Irnik especially after the reveal that he hasn't been who he's said he was this ENTIRE TIME.

There were also a few things about Below that I simply did not personally like.

I don't understand why we had to see the dog used the way it was. It made sense for the dog to be there because of Apaay's culture, but then it was nothing more than yet another way in which to torture our main character. It ended up being sad for a moment, but then became lost in the sea of other torments that Apaay experiences. I think it would've been better if the dog had been kept on the cast roster as a character and companion of Apaay even throughout her captivity.

This book felt less like an adventure in the end, and a lot more like pure whump - a means to torture the MC and her loved ones. I've read plenty of grimdark books up til now, but I was surprised at how unrelenting and pointless Apaay's torments were in Below. I never understood why Yuki was as cruel as she was or why the Face Stealer let all these things happen when he clearly had the power to disrupt her earlier on. I think more care should have also been taken in that Warwick is a white author writing about marginalized (irl) indigenous POC characters, and those characters are in constant physical pain and mental anguish throughout this book, enough that the phrase "torture porn" crossed my mind several times, especially in the middle 50%. These characters are shoved into cages, Apaay is forced to strip naked in front of other people, has her head traumatically shaved, and is debased and humiliated in almost every conceivable way. She's burned alive in boiling water, breaks bones, nearly freezes to death, starves, is tricked into murdering an innocent person, is forced to kill her own dog, is made to watch her home be terrorized and then destroyed in the end, and honestly the suffering is rendered in prosey, graphic detail and never ends. It was not enjoyable to read about, and the fact that Apaay survived her torments didn't feel triumphant in the end. There's simply no way I would ever feel comfortable suggesting that an indigenous person read this book, which is the yardstick I use to measure how I feel about representation of cultures outside my own written by white authors. I was certainly uncomfortable reading it.

I was disappointed in the Face Stealer's role. He never felt like much of a threat, was humanized too quickly, and his powers came down to "tentacle-y shadow magic," which I thought was an odd choice for a "face stealer." I was also disappointed to find that he was human, or at least, had a human form and had regular humanlike relationships with people.

Cliffhanger ending - no questions answered in the end, such that Below doesn't feel like a complete story by itself in any way. I feel like individual books within series are most enjoyable and satisfying when they have a full story to tell and wrap up by the final pages, with promises for more answers and continued threads in the sequel(s). But nothing at all is wrapped up in Below, besides Warwick telling us in so many words that Apaay has found herself? I feel like, at the very very least, we should have found out Yuki's true motivations by the end, if only to justify the imprisonment and torture in some way.

I'm glad that Warwick seems to have written what she enjoys. There was a lot of stuff in Below that held back my own enjoyment personally, and while I absolutely won't speak for indigenous readers, I would not personally rec this book, especially not to my indigenous friends.
1 review
March 1, 2019
First of all, I would like to thank the author for sending me a digital copy of the book so swiftly, as I received it within hours of sending the email.
My first impressions of this book was excellent. After the author released the cover, I fell in love with the illustration. For the first few pages I was very much already drawn into Apaay’s northern world. What this author especially excels at is painting environments, she describes them with such(but not obtrusive) detail that it helped me underestand the overall lore better, me being unfamilliar with it. Of course, that is my take on whether or not there are too much details. I feel like the topic would very much be up to debate, but just from my perspective the descriptiveness most of the time does not hinder the flow of the plot and Apaay’s actions. The writing style enhances the drama and the desperation that Apaay feels, which successfully echoes in the reader. This is not my most preferred writing style, but it works well in this context, so I have no complaints.
Onto the plot and characters of the book, it is done well to both incorporate Inuit mythology and to not confuse the reader. The Face Stealer is certainly an interesting and conflicted antagonist, and so is Yuki. The power dynamics between the two are fascinating. I would say there are no real lighthearted, hilarious moments in this book, dark fantasy and whatnot, so if you’re looking for a light, comedic book, this is not it. However, if you’re looking for a world built on riveting myth and characters that form complex and genuine relationships with each other, this is it. This book made me care. I cared about Apaay’s struggles. I cared about her sister’s face being stolen. I cared about all the physical and psychological terror she had to endure within the labyrinth. That is the most successful part of the book.
A solid 4 stars from me, and to any of my friends who enjoy this genre, I would definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Alexia.
29 reviews13 followers
November 30, 2019
I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!!

This book is EPIC. It’s an incredible, magical and deadly fantasy world that is full of heartbreak and cruelty but also has love, friendship, and a deep sense of community. There was a good mix of mystery and action, all of which were vividly and beautifully written. The pace was good, the world-building was fantastic, and the characters were unforgettable. This book both brought me to tears and left me unable to put it down on a number of occasions.

Apaay’s love and loyalty towards her family, her village, and her ways of life are inspiring. Her complexity and development are turbulent, and her will and strength are never-ending, even when at times in the book, there was no end to the miseries she endured. Throughout this book, she becomes a woman who has been broken down mentally and physically, forced to sacrifice herself repeatedly, and relies on her enemies to help her survive. Her relationships with her family and friends, as well as most that she meets throughout her adventures, particularly Ila, are incredibly wholesome and pure. Her fire and defiance towards the antagonists were also great to experience. Also, her dog, Naqaluk, made me cry so many times.

The two antagonists of this tale, Yuki and Numiak (also known as The Face Stealer), are formidable and unpredictable. Their relationship is tumultuous, with layers of complexity that keep you guessing. They are complicated individuals that both rely on each other and deceive each other constantly, and I loved their dynamic. They gave the story a tension that pushed the story towards an explosive climax, and a reveal that I did not see coming!!

To conclude, this is a beautiful story that needs to be read by EVERYONE. It’s perfect for those who love fantasy, complex characters, and a world that is filled with both extreme cruelty and endless hope. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this trilogy unfolds.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
31 reviews
March 12, 2019

I gave this 3.5 stars.

This is Apaay's story, Apaay is a girl from the North who is on a quest to retrieve her sister's face after it is stolen by the notorious Face Stealer. What Apaay does not anticipate is being captured by someone other than the Face Stealer and being sucked into the labyrinth and Yuki's cruel games.

The world building is complex and well done. Apaay is also a complex character who is desperately trying to prove herself to her family. There are times in the story where Apaay is reckless and struggles to control her temper which leads to many defeats against Yuki. Her relationship with the Face Stealer is interesting.

It is the Face Stealer who I was more interested in, he appears to be a complicated and fascinating character who I was fully prepared to hate for what he does (clue is in the name) however, as the story unravels there is more to him than meets the eye. I am looking forward to seeing how the story continues.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys this genre.

ARC was received for an honest review.

Profile Image for Anca.
257 reviews18 followers
April 20, 2020
I bought this on a whim, because that cover is just stunning.

This was rather a beautiful tale and to my delight, inspired by Inuit mythology. This reminded me a bit of Wintersong, in the style in which it was written.

The was poetic and beautifully written, with an endearing and wonderful protagonist. Your heart felt for Apaay, she showed such courage, integrity, love and loyalty. Nothing seems to go right, and it is just lost after loss after loss for her, but she was determined to go on.

The Face Stealer was such a complex and wonderful character, as was Yuki.

Oh and that beautifully cold and Arctic setting...can't wait to see what book 2 brings!
Profile Image for Sheila G.
506 reviews97 followers
February 3, 2020
I'm excited to be a part of the BELOW blog tour with The Fantastic Flying Book Club, from January 29th - February 4th, 2020!

I received an ARC of this book via the author, Alexandria Warwick and The FFBC, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.


All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

Content Warning: Death of an animal and character, Imprisonment, Blood, Gore, Torture, Starvation/self-imposed Anorexia, Talk of Suicide, mild Profanity, near-Drowning

Below is an incredibly unique story. Based on stories and figures in Inuit mythology, it offers a very different, unfamiliar, and fresh look for Young Adult fantasy. Elements of The Last Airbender are also represented, mainly by a face-stealing demon who is the bane of the local villages. The culture and mythology were mainly inspired by the Inuit of Nunavut, Canada.
”They didn’t believe in you, did they?”
They hadn’t, and she had wanted them to. She’d wanted them to so badly. She had come for Eska, but she had come for herself too. The guilt swelled for needing that belief, that trust from those she loved most, to be a reason at all.

Apaay resides in the frigid Arctic north. Small villages pepper what would otherwise be a frozen land of white. One would think that the severe climate would be the most of the Analak’s worries. Surprisingly, one other force has yet to meet it’s reckoning--the Face Stealer--a demon that sneaks into the village to steal the face of an unsuspecting individual once every few months. No warning is given when the demon strikes. It is in this moment that Apaay’s younger sister Eska, falls prey to the demon’s ruthless pickings. Now faceless, except for two slits where her nostrils once remained, Eska is forced to live a life of isolation. Others who have befallen the same fate typically don’t make it--the isolation and loss of identity prove to be too much for their continued existence.

Desperate to help her sister, Apaay decides to seek out the notorious Face Stealer to get her sister’s face back. Her family, and the rest of the community surprisingly discourage her, due to their loss in hope in returning something so intimate to the people that have been affected. Unable to write her sister off, Apaay sneaks off and traverses the barren North in search of the demon.

In her wanderings, Apaay becomes trapped inside a labyrinth ruled by a treacherous girl named Yuki. Working hand-in-hand with the notorious demon, Yuki makes a deal with Apaay that she will give her freedom if she can locate Eska’s face in the labyrinth. If she fails, she will be trapped in the labyrinth, and the in-between. The labyrinth is not what it seems, and Apaay finds herself stuck within it’s slippery grasp. Unexpectedly, Appay meets others that have been trapped there for different reasons, and creates lasting relationships--one with a deaf girl named Ila. The longer she stays within Yuki’s grasps, the more she learns about Numiak, the face-stealing demon, and that his motivations for stealing faces may be for a very different reason than assumed.
He was keeping something from her. She didn’t know what. She only knew the feeling of lies upon the tongue, and his was a most burdensome weight.

Throughout everything, Apaay questions a lot about her identity, and learns how to love herself. Her journey makes her character incredibly personable for the reader, as every person traverses these musings at some point in their life. Several aspects of her culture heavily influence how she views herself. Her family, her image, her hair, her beauty, usefulness, and so on and so forth. For much of the story, she progressively learns how she views herself now, compared to who she used to be.

Ultimately, Below is a story about self-love, dedication, and identity. I really enjoyed the diversity, setting, and Apaay’s character arc. I’m very curious to see where this story will go, and to learn more about some of these characters that I feel will show up in the sequels to this story. I think that some of the settings could have used more detail. It was confusing trying to understand exactly where the scene was taking place at times. No matter what, I think that Apaay's story itself is very memorable.
More importantly, she had found herself.
She was not Ila or Chena or Mama or Papa or Masuk or Eska or Silla.
She was Apaay.
She was enough.

Vulgarity: Mild.
Sexual content: There was one scene of nudity but nothing sexually happened. It was to humiliate one of the characters.
Violence: Moderate.

My Rating:★★★1/2

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