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. (from Gurt Dog Press)
Publication date: August 31st, 2020
Disclaimer: A review copy (eARC) of this book was provided by the publicist, and the author is a friend of mine.
Content Warnings: assault, abandonment, murder, gore
This illustrated horror fantasy novella stars a faun-like society that replaces their teeth with new ones when they become adults, granting them magical abilities depending on the teeth chosen.
The protagonist is at that age where he’ll soon be granted to right to have new teeths, but who made a mistake, was taken advantage of and ends up a pariah, living on the edge of the city… up until someone takes interest in his art. I loved the way Beneath a Bethel explored both the fringe of that society as well as the centre, showing the differences between the rich and poor, but also the ways the magic functions. It is also about trauma, and the long road to recovery.
“Like so many great shifts in our lives that are never visible to others, I had been altered. Deep inside, my life had already been carved in two, before and after.”
The illustrations were a lovely touch, especially when the story revolves so much around art. I absolutely loved the last illustration!
While it is a horror story, which I do not read often, it has some lovely imagery. The snowy city but also the magical tea shop where some of my favourite parts.
Dark and gory, this novella basks in a sentiment of unease. I really felt there with the protagonist and shared his horror and anxiety throughout.
“They closed their eyes to clues, preferring to continue benefiting from a truth withheld. Those privileged mouths closed tightly over their teeth, refusing to ask the questions they must.”
As a whole, to me, this story really is about the way living a privileged life always comes at a cost, it truly shows how a society that depends on the poor to uphold other’s way of life is horrific. A theme that is painfully relevant to our times, here woven with fantasy and magic in a great way.
2 thoughts on “Beneath a Bethel, by April-Jane Rowan”
Lovely review! I have an ARC too and I’m looking forward to trying it. Even though horror and novellas are not really my thing, I’m intrigued by the premise of this story, and the first line is such a hook!
Right ?? I waited until I was in a right place mentally to start it because I knew it would take a toll haha. But I loved the way it balanced dark shit with sweet moments.
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