Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘The Place Below’ by Dan Fitzgerald organised by Storytellers on Tour, and I am delighted to be sharing the third and final part of my focus on this fantastic series. You can find my reviews for the first two books here (Hollow Road | The Archive).
There is also an International Giveaway at the end of this post where you have the chance to win an amazing megapack featuring all three books, artwork and character cards.
I hope that you will check out the book and the author, and enjoy the rest of the tour with the schedule in the banner below or (HERE).
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review, all views are my own.’*
It’s been twenty-five years since the Battle for the Archive. Peace reigns over the Silver Hills, and humans and Maer are preparing to sign their first trade agreement. Even warring tribes of the Free Maer have set aside old quarrels.
Sasha is a young scholar of mixed Maer and human parentage, traveling throughout the Maer lands collecting stories of the Ka-lar, the buried Forever Kings. She finds a reference in the Archive to a Ka-lar named Kuun, a scholar in life, who was laid down in an ancient brightstone mine, beneath a mountain said to be the home of the fabled Skin Maer. The lure of the tale is too strong to resist. Joined by some old friends, Sasha sets out to uncover secrets that have lain buried for over a thousand years.
In The Place Below, the Maer Cycle comes to a close as the darkest mysteries of the Maer are at last brought into the light.
The final book in any series always has a weight of expectation on it, especially when the series has been something as memorable and impactful as The Maer Cycle, and in The Place Below, Fitzgerald has knocked it out of the park.
The Place Below occurs a number of years after the events of The Archive. Sometimes I find time-skips like this can detract from what I enjoyed about the series and characters, but as with everything he does, Fitzgerald has taken that and put his own twist on that. Yes, we have new characters and a new main protagonist – again written with the subtlety and depth and sheer humanity that the author brings to all his characters – but the characters that we spent so long with throughout the previous two books are still here. More in a supportive, secondary role now, but having them there makes it feel very much like coming home, and what I particularly enjoyed is that this is those characters as they should be after all this time. They’re older and wiser and have continued to grow and change, and not only does continue with the natural, organic feeling that has always been infused within The Maer Cycle, but it builds on that sense of time passing and life continuing. Returning to that feeling of a D&D adventure, you almost get the sense that this is one adventuring party hanging up their weapons and travelling gear and passing on the baton to the next generation while still remaining a part of that journey and story and giving us some wonderful continuity.
The new main protagonist Sasha is the perfect character to take up that baton, not only as a bridge between the familiar characters and the new but also between the societies and people who had been central to this entire series. In many ways, she is the epitome of what Fitzgerald was exploring in the earlier books, as her shared heritage – Human and Maer – is both new, but also an example of learning to come together, and we see it here in a character who is accepted and loved by family and friends. We also see that exploration continued through her insecurities and doubts, and her journey throughout the book to discover just who she was and what she was capable of. Again, we see the author’s skill in character development and watching Sasha grow and change throughout The Place Below, both as an individual, and as someone living with a foot in two cultures and shifting, changing relationships is a delight to behold.
The worldbuilding has continued to grow and expand, seen through new eyes, and with the passing of time, and it was wonderful to learn more about the Maer, especially as the viewpoints have shifted primarily to Maer in this book. As with everything about The Maer Cycle, that change and expansion have felt like a natural, organic part of the journey, and I loved that even as we came to this third and final part of the trilogy we still had that wonderful sense of discovery.
I would say that The Place Below was possibly the darkest of the three, although danger and action have been a part of the story from the beginning. However, even as we delved a little more into that shadow in this one, the overarching message of acceptance and the power of storytelling, and friendship and love and family remain, and it is wonderful to see that right until the very end it is the characters old and new who are the heart of this world and story. These are people that we have gone adventuring with, fought with, spent quiet moments with. We’ve experienced their highs and lows, doubts and hopes, love and anger and distrust, and so many other emotions, and reaching the end of this series is bittersweet because, on the one hand, it is incredibly satisfying to see Fitzgerald bring these journeys to their conclusion and on the other, you want to keep spending time with them.
The Maer Cycle was already very firmly on my list of memorable series. One that I will definitely revisit especially when I want to scratch that ‘journey’ itch and The Place Below has cemented it as a favourite, both as an individual book but also as a fitting send-off to a series that has been something different since book one. I can’t recommend this highly enough, and I for one will eagerly be anticipating the next book by this author (and we don’t have that long to wait!).
About the Author:
Dan Fitzgerald is a fantasy author living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When he is not writing, he might be gardening, taking photographs of nature, doing yoga, cooking, or listening to French music. The Maer Cycle is his debut trilogy, with Hollow Road and The Archive on several book bloggers’ best-of lists for 2020, and The Place Below coming March 4 2021. His upcoming duology, The Weirdwater Confluence, will be published in October 2021 and January 2022. All books published by Shadow Spark Publishing.
Find out more about Dan and his books at www.danfitzwrites.com, or look him up on Twitter or Instagram, under the name danfitzwrites.
Prize: The Maer Cycle Megapack! – Signed copies of Hollow Road, The Archive & The Place Below, all artwork, and the final set of the Hollow Road character cards –
Starts: March 24th, 2021 at 12:00am EST
Ends: March 31st, 2021 at 11:59pm EST
You can enter here:a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.