The Official Description: Every youth of Elbridge remembers their Floris, the holy ceremony where their teeth are pulled out with pliers. It marks their ascension into adulthood and their right to have new porcelain teeth, ones that are embedded with magic, that grant the ability to make wishes.
Angora’s Floris will be upon the banks of the Eldwen river, the communal ceremony befitting his station. However he longs to remember his ceremony for the splendour of the Bethel, wreathed in candle light, drooping flowers and holy hymns.
Seeking to fulfil his dream leaves him the victim of violence and an outcast from society, living on its fringes until a chance meeting brings him to the heart of the Masters Guild, the place teeth are made. Learning secrets he never thought he’d be privy too, he eventually discovers the dark cost of their tradition.
Beneath A Bethel is a dark horror fantasy, set in a harsh, snow-covered city that hides its brutality with pageantry.
Just the facts: A beautiful yet macabre fairy-tale-like story.
From its opening, Beneath a Bethel is a roller coaster ride of emotion… love, fear, terror, hope and ferocity. Macabre and poetic. – Kinzie Things
Excerpt: Some sense of unease still lingered within the house however, unexplained noises and the hints of visions intruding upon our days. A wispy movement out of the corner of my eye, or the echo of something being dragged sounding in the hall. Barnaby seemed immune to such things and I tried to convince myself that it was merely nothing, an old house grumbling or a trick of the light. Just like the vision of the spectre or the memories of my attack, in the busy day, it was easy to push aside. It was during the night that I struggled, everything bearing down on me with relish as if in punishment for my avoidance.
One evening, as I was locking up the workroom for the night, I saw something that could not be explained away, no matter how my mind refused to see it. At first it was merely a flicker, shadows condensing against the wall of photographs, their gold frames catching the dim light. I paused on my descent down the stairs, aware of the sounds of Barnaby making dinner in the kitchen, his humming comforting.
Only it began to dawn on me that it wasn’t him humming.
My thoughts bit: April-Jane Rowan has created a marvelous world in this novella. I would gladly have read two or three times the number of pages to get to the glorious conclusion. This is an author to watch!
Beneath a Bethel opens with a brief introduction to a remarkable world. The characters are fur-covered and have tails, and teeth are the center of an intriguing culture.
Angora is facing the ceremony during which his teeth will be removed. In this culture, teeth are removed when children are of age and they are replaced with porcelain teeth embued with magical powers. Because of the poverty of Angora’s family, his Floris won’t be done with the pomp, circumstance, and ritual that is provided to the wealthy… it won’t even be done in a Bethel. But… Angora is involved with Gillis and has been told that he can experience the beauty of the ritual. In a frightening turn of events, things don’t go the way Gillis has promised and Angora is left terrified, wounded, and forced out of his family home to become a pariah.
As the cold weather arrives, Angora is lucky enough to catch the eye of Barnaby. Barnaby is a Master and one of the few people who can create magical teeth. He’s interested in Angora because he has seen him drawing, and offers him a place that will change his life.
There is a macabre feel to this story, it reminded me of the feel of the movie Crimson Peak, it’s gothic and dark but that is wrapped up in the hope and trusting nature of Angora. Angora has suffered terrible trauma and yet he still finds it within himself to love and hope. That is the true nature of being human.
Things in this novella are not what they appear and I hope that everyone will get an opportunity to read this remarkable tale without having it spoiled for them. This is a book made better by knowing as little as possible. Trust in this author to deliver a story that is worthy of making you shiver on a cold night.
April-Jane Rowan demonstrates a fantastic ability to create characters that seem to come alive. I was shocked that in such a short work, I could come to feel such empathy for a character. I felt as though I could see Angora in my mind at the end of the novel after a stunning and crucial scene.
The book is only made better by the accompanying line drawings by Nem Rowan. The drawings were small in the ARC copy, but they are detailed and beautiful. The drawings were exactly as I pictured the characters and I loved that! Please read the warnings, but I would confidently recommend this book to anyone with an appreciation for a well-told, original story.
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About the Author:
April-Jane Rowan was born with a morbid fascination that she turned into writing so she could explain away her strangeness. Luckily for her, she found she rather liked it, so for many years, she has been creating bizarre, dark tales. When not writing, she can be found lurking in graveyards, libraries and museums. She lives in Sweden with her two partners and their pack of beasties
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Suicide, suicidal ideation, sword fights, death of supporting character, death of major characters.
I received an ARC of Beneath a Bethel by April-Jane Rowan via BProud PR in exchange for an unbiased review.