Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice – Paranormal Black Swan (Sort of)

The Dark Beneath the Ice

Title: The Dark Beneath the Ice
Author: Amelinda Bèrubè
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Genre(s) and Subject(s):
YA Paranormal, Mental Health, LGBTQIAP+
Page Count: 336 (hardcover)

Rating: 7.0/10




Marianne’s life is turning upside down. It all started when she decided to quit dancing, and now it’s come to a boil, with her parents divorced and her mother voluntarily hospitalized. To make matters worse, strange things are happening around her. She’s doing things that she doesn’t remember doing and having recurrent nightmares of herself drowning. Now she needs to figure out what it is that’s haunting her and put an end to it before it gets her first.

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The story has been called a paranormal Black Swan and I do kind of understand the comparison–both main characters are dancers who start doubting their sanity. But whereas the movie has a frenetic obsessive feel, The Dark Beneath the Ice has a more lonely, laid-back quality to it. It’s a story about Marianne’s insecurities, and other mental health issues, more so than dancing and the pursuit of perfection.

The author does a great job portraying all the little demons that crowd our minds–the voices that tell us we’re not talented enough, interesting enough, good enough. You get scenes that range from awkward and secondhand embarrassment-inducing (Is there an award for the most realistically awkward phone conversations? Because this book has them in spades) to wonderfully poignant ones that tug at your heartstrings. And there are some that really hit close to home–like the “Oh god, does this person really want to be my friend or are they just taking pity on me? It has to be the latter, no one likes me” train of thought that Marianne often falls prey to. Her struggles may not be as overtly dark as Nina’s in The Black Swan, but they’re common ones that many people face and Bèrubè shows them in such a heartfelt way.

“Sometimes I think I’m just not a very good person. You know? Sometimes it’s like any minute someone’s going to read my mind and find out how awful I am inside. Do you ever worry about that?”

All the time, I didn’t say. I’ve never stopped.

We also get a slow-burn romantic subplot between the MC and a girl named Rhiannon (“Ron”), which I thought was very sweet. It’s your “Goth girl with a I’m-tough-shit-but-pry-me-open-and-you’ll-find-a-soft-center attitude gets together with a shy, introverted girl” trope, and I ate it up like a sundae.

My biggest problem with the story was, surprisingly, the paranormal aspect. I went in expecting chills and scares and didn’t find much of either. And I think a large part of that was due to the sheer number of the “ghost” scenes. The first 1/4 of the book is saturated with these hazy hallucinatory sequences that I found myself getting bored of after a while. There were moments here and there where I thought, “Okay that’s nicely creepy” but, for the most part, I just couldn’t get invested in the ghostly happenings.

To sum up: I loved seeing the story weave together mental health elements with the speculative elements; plot-wise, I was left feeling somewhat disappointed.

Copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

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thebookwormdrinketh August 23, 2018 - 1:07 pm

I love the sound of the mental health elements and the ‘voices’ in her mind. I’m sure we can ALL relate to that!
I can understand the getting bored of so many ‘ghost’ scenes, though. I’m reading a book and having a similar experience… Although, replace ‘ghosts’ with ‘torture’! I never thought I would read a book and be so desensitized to torture! Ha ha! “really?.. ANOTHER torture scene?? *sigh* alight… 😕” Shame to hear that this one didn’t quite so it for you. 7/10 is still really good! 💖🍻

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 25, 2018 - 12:38 am

…oh god, Nicole, what the heck are you reading??! 😂 I think I’ll happily take a hundred more ghost scenes than torture ones. 😛

Ayunda August 23, 2018 - 3:33 pm

Great review. This does not really sound like something I’d like to read, not a huge fan of paranormal in general, but glad you quite enjoyed it!

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 25, 2018 - 12:34 am

Thanks, Ayunda! I don’t really read many paranormal stories either, but the mental health + ghost combination for this one had me intrigued.

Kaleena @ Reader Voracious August 23, 2018 - 4:23 pm

I am so happy to see a positive review of this book, and glad that you enjoyed it! I… did not

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 23, 2018 - 11:38 pm

Ahaha I saw that a lot of my Goodreads friends didn’t either, Kaleena. It wasn’t *quite* what I wanted, but it wasn’t too bad either. 😛

Norrie August 23, 2018 - 7:56 pm

Certainly interesting… Yey for mental health, but otherwise sounds a bit odd. Not sure i’d like it. Maybe best to keep paranormal and health matters separate…

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 25, 2018 - 12:32 am

Yeah, I liked what it tried to do but the execution was…eh. I’ve been asking for more horror/fantasy/scifi + mental health books, and I guess I’m getting a lot more of them? So yay for that 😀

Sionna (Books in Her Eyes) August 23, 2018 - 9:53 pm

I’m glad you were able to enjoy it! I will say the slow burn romance was one plus for me. 🙂

MetalPhantasmReads August 23, 2018 - 10:02 pm

I couldn’t even finish it sadly. The supernatural scenes felt confusing for me and I never got the book :/ But I’m glad you enjoyed it at least

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 24, 2018 - 11:48 pm

Thank you! And yeah, the beginning is admittedly not the most interesting so I don’t blame you for DNF

sjhigbee August 23, 2018 - 10:02 pm

This one sounds really intriguing – thank you for your excellent review:)

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 24, 2018 - 11:49 pm

Thank you, Sarah! 😀

Alex Logan August 23, 2018 - 10:15 pm

I’m a huge scaredy-cat and this looked too creepy for me. I’m actually more interested now that you say it wasn’t that scary!

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 25, 2018 - 12:55 am

Yup, definitely more on the light side of psychological horror! And I’m a lot more of a scaredy-cat when it comes to scary movies/shows than books. 🙂

jennifertarheelreader August 24, 2018 - 1:29 am

This one wasn’t the one you quoted the first line for me, was it, Kathy? I think you were loving that book, but this sounds similar? Thoughtful review, but I hope your next read is more consistent overall!

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 25, 2018 - 12:49 am

Thanks, Jennifer! And oh no, this isn’t that book. That’s probably going to be a bit of long review. 😛 I’m still trying to find the right words to gush about it!

jennifertarheelreader August 25, 2018 - 12:54 am

Cannot wait! I need you to help me add more gushing words to my arsenal! 😂 ♥️

Marta August 24, 2018 - 8:58 pm

This sounds interesting, I think I’ve seen an handful of mixed reviews about this book and it’s such a shame because that cover was so beautiful and intriguing, it gave me chills. Sorry that the actual book didn’t do the same 🙁
I like some aspects that you mentioned, so maybe I’ll still think about whether I should read it or not.
Great review! <3

@lynnsbooks August 25, 2018 - 12:05 pm

This sounds like it’s missing a trick somehow. The mental health aspects really intrigue me but then the ghostly aspects seem to be something of a let down. It’s a shame.
I’m kind of on the fence about it.
Lynn 😀

Meghan H. August 26, 2018 - 1:10 am

This book is on my September TBR and I’m kind of worried I won’t like it as much as I expected 😂 It sounds like it’s a hit-or-miss book! Thanks for this great review 😊

Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 29, 2018 - 7:52 am

Aw, thanks, Meghan! And I know a couple of people who really liked it and others who didn’t, so I have no idea which way you’ll fall into, but fingers crossed it does work out for you!

August 2018 Wrap Up – It’s Not You, Scifi, It’s Me…But It’s Also Kind of You – Pages Below the Vaulted Sky September 3, 2018 - 12:57 pm

[…] ➽ The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bèrubè👻🌈: (7/10) A paranormal YA that’s been called Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity. I wasn’t too impressed with the paranormal plot, but the main character and her mental health struggles were done very well. Review here. […]


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