After thoroughly enjoying 'Storm Witch', the first in this terrific fantasy quartet, I was eager to read the follow-up: 'Under Earth'. You'll be pleased to hear that the sequel is equally magnificent, brimming with further magic and imagination.

Storm is now the Weather Witch of Yanlin and helps her island's fleet to defeat the Drowned Ones. At Bellum Town, an exotic island enclosed by lava walls, Storm is wooed by the wealthy Pact who are hell-bent on having a witch of their own. Danger lurks at every turn and the Salamander wants her dead by fire. If Storm is to survive and prevent war she must tred carefully, and learn to accept the ways of the Elementals' magic.

Like in 'Storm Witch', Renner writes beautifully and in 'Under Earth' we discover more about the wider world. Bellum Town is described so vividly - it is sumptuous for the senses, dazzling in colour and exoticism, and rife with political and social tension. The world-building is first rate and quite different to many other similar fantasies. Here the world is conjured in Eastern atmosphere and flavour, with Eastern-like philosophy and mysticism hanging in the balance. There is much to discuss in terms of how people treat nature, govern and believe in the spiritual. In this book the magical, pseudo-spiritual elements of 'Storm Witch' confront the materialism and greed of the Pact. Storm grapples with her own desires against the higher purposes of the Elementals - and it's just so captivating. Like Ursula le Guin, Ellen Renner subtly evokes the East in surprising ways that feel both refreshing and vital in a children's book. Again there is also such a cliffhangar ending that I'm going to be counting down the days until I can read the third installment: 'The Drowned Ones'.

Please, if you have not read either 'Storm Witch' or 'Under Earth' do so! They are magnificently written, superb stories that captivate the imagination like no other. Wonderful!

Thank you to Nosy Crow for the copy to review.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/under-earth/ellen-renner/9781788003605

© 2020 by Chris Soul. 

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