November 30, 2020

Amelinda Bérubé: "The Dark Beneath the Ice"

Title: The Dark Beneath the Ice [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Amelinda Bérubé [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2018
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5
Pros: Frantic, creepy ride, with a twist you won't see coming. Sensitive handling of the coming-into-one's-sexuality theme. Provides an all-too-real social commentary about girls/women. 
Cons: Most of the supernatural incidents give off a déjà-vu vibe. The family drama is a bit over the top. A character gets accidentally outed.
WARNING! Mental illness; drowning.
Will appeal to: Fans of classic spooks with an unexpected edge. Unlikely-friends/allies-to-lovers enthusiasts.

Blurb: Something is wrong with Marianne. It's not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn't been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital. She's losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic. But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing's rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has - everything it's convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it's owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side. (Amazon)

Review: I actually enjoyed this book a tad more when reading it for the second time, hence the added half star. I found that knowing what it was doing actually enhanced my reading experience. That's one of the reasons why I try to read my books at least twice until I write a full review...first impressions are important, but since I'm a strong advocate for rereading, I do my best in order to give a book a second chance at getting the best rating/review I can give it 🙂. 


The best thing about TDBTI is that, classic spooks notwithstanding, it ultimately goes in a completely unexpected direction when it comes to both the entity and the reason behind them, and it has something to say about what society (and even family) expects girls to be/act like - not to mention, the harm such expectations can cause. Marianne is trapped into a vicious circle, with an unhappy, mentally strained mother who - despite being unable to cope anymore with the role she's expected to play in her family - doesn't know how to let her daughter choose her own happiness. Add to that a workaholic father (who just left home for good) and a well-meaning but clueless aunt who both still see Marianne as a little girl, not a young woman, and her lack of a social life. So, one wonders, why should the nameless entity who's after her be convinced that Marianne stole something from it and has to give it back? A few answers are on the table, but one by one they get discarded, until the (articulated) reveal that ties in the paranormal and the mundane and doubles as a cautionary tale/social commentary. [...]


TDBTI also deals with coming into one's sexuality, and delivers a satisfying (if a bit fast) strangers-to-allies-to-friends-to-sweethearts story featuring a slightly cliché, but ultimately strong, brave and caring side character. I liked how Bérubé explored the maybe-I-like-girls angle, because let's face it, there are a lot of nuances when you're a teen and have a same-sex "bestest" friend (or someone you think of as one). It's not always easy to draw the line between obsessing over that friend (and yes, I use the verb for a reason - we've all been there) and maybe harboring romantic feelings for them - plus, you might not be ready to face the truth yet. Also, I know that some readers are put off by a character who decides not to embrace the lesbian/gay label, and I tend to get annoyed by such things myself, because saying "I don't know/am not sure if I like girls/boys, but I like this particular girl/boy" sounds like the easy way out - but when the character at issue is young and still questioning, we can probably condone that 🙂.


I have to admit that this novel is not as strong in other departments though. I mentioned classic spooks before - and at least a few of the things Marianne experiences are, indeed, extremely familiar to any horror aficionado (though they manage to keep the tension high and to gradually isolate her from her family and - briefly - from the friend who wants to help her). Of course, they're classic for a reason, but I would have liked a somehow fresher approach to the supernatural part of the story. I will admit that the role the water plays IS terrifying though, what with toying with the innate fear of drowning that most of us have, and the feeling of helplessness that water incites in those who aren't swim-savvy.
Another thing I'm not particularly fond of is the divorce drama, which feels a bit over the top - even if I realise that things are complicated by Marianne's mother's mental health issues. Then again, maybe most divorces are that way - how would I know.
In short, TDBTI is a strong debut book, and an almost daring one in that it manages to bridge the gap between the supernatural and the mundane - and if in doing so it employs some familiar imagery and a dose of angst, that ultimately doesn't impact what it's trying to accomplish.

For more books that defy categories click here.


  1. Im really impressed by your rereading habit! I liked this one a lot but agreed about the relationship progressing a bit too fast.

    1. LOL, thanks! About the least there's a reason for Ron to get involved from the start, what with her being an outcast (though in a different way than Marianne) and her mother being a psychic. And the things they get to experience together forge a bond.

  2. "Something is wrong with Marianne." Ooh spooky! A debut as well. This sounds quite fun!

  3. Any book that toys around with drowning or even the fear of drowning is not something I could read. The fear is a real one and not something I want to give myself nightmares over.

    1. I can't swim for the life of me, but since I never enter the water (unless it's the bathtub), reading such books is safe for me LOL. Then again, I realise that there are people who can be triggered by drowning in books even if they never go near the water.

  4. Second time around, good for you :)
    SOunds good

  5. I am intrigued by it being so unexpected and different in the direction it takes! It sounds like it has some stronger areas than others though.

    1. Yep, but the strong points made up for those 🙂.

  6. I really don't think I could reread every book... sometimes I struggle to read one time! That being said, it shows in your review - you've really thought about the book. I'm so interested in this one after reading your review and it's not my typical interest. I might just give it a go!

    1. Thank you for validating my effort! I hope you decide to give it a go...and you will like it, or I'll feel guilty 🥺 😂.

  7. I tried to read a sample of this, but as much as I wanted to love it, I just wasn't clicking with the writing at all. I feel like clichéd spooks can be done in a fun way, but it sucks when you finish a horror and you feel like the scary elements were extremely typical. In any case, I'm glad you still found things you enjoyed in this novel. Great review! :)

    1. I agree that the writing wasn't the biggest selling point of this one. It's a bummer it didn't work for you...but at least you didn't need to spend your money to find out! And thank always. I know you mean it 😘.


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