Those Above, Daniel Polansky Book Review

Morning mortals! I am, in many ways, dreading writing this book review because I loathe writing negative reviews. As much I like to complain (I am british after all) I feel some kind of obligation to make my reviews mostly positive. But I cannot, in good conscience, do that for this book which has been the bane of my reading life for the past week or so and only through writing this review can I finally get it off my many lists and off to a charity shop!

Goodreads Summary:

They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the centre of the world. They are called Those Above by their subjects. They enforce their will with fire and sword.

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 picked this book up at YALC because the cover looked aesthetically pleasing and the summary sounded like the kind of thing I enjoy reading – who doesn’t love a good revolution? In fact this summary is the best thing about the book. If the book was actually what this summary says it is I think I would have liked it a lot more.

Let’s start with length, this is a pretty standard c.400 page paperback, but the font is deceptively small and it’s incredibly dense writing so it feels more like a marathon than an enjoyable read. I had to actively split the book into tenths and force myself to read to the next bookmark just to get through it. I love a long book, I’m here for length but the density of description just makes this feel like excessively hard work.

Next up, my biggest criticism of this entire book. Nothing happens. Seriously. You know in very early English lessons in school you talk about books having a beginning, a middle and an end (if you’re fancy you might even have used the word denouement at times)? Well someone tell this book that because I got to page 300 and I’m pretty sure there was no real climax. Partly I think that was the fault of the quite disparate multiple POVs. But even then I felt like the book was more a collection of distinct events, I never felt like any of the characters were working towards anything in particular, things just sort of happened to them.

There is also, in my opinion, excessive worldbuilding. I know! How can this be? Worldbuilding is one of the best bits of reading fantasy! But in this case there was so much detail I just felt overwhelmed, I didn’t have a sense of the climate or the size of the land we were talking about but I could tell you a lot about the various different deities that would be in one particular procession. Choices were made as to what details were given to the reader and for me it just didn’t work.

I will say, there are some great lines of dialogue in this, most of which come from my favourite character, the machiavellian matriarch Eudokia. If I could have just read her story I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more.

However, some good lines from one good character does not a great novel make. If you loved this book then that’s amazing for you but for me it’s been a frustrating few days, suffice to say I don’t think I’ll be picking up the sequel…

My rating: 1/5 stars (I don’t think I’ve given a 1* before?!)

What say you? Too harsh? Let me know in the comments below!


5 thoughts on “Those Above, Daniel Polansky Book Review

Add yours

  1. Oh my God, that seems like a disappointing read. Worse is the fact that the cover is so beautiful, I would’ve definitely picked this up from a shelf if I hadn’t read any reviews of it. World-building is such a delicate aspect of a fantasy book, it can either make it or break it. Loved the review, though 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just discovered your blog! The cover is so pretty and it’s always sad if the interior doesn’t live up to that. But you can’t love every book that’s out there and I think these “bad” reviews are so important as well 🙂 even though it’s way more fun to gush about a book 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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