The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence – Book Review
Published by: ACE
Genre: fantasy / science-fantasy
The Girl and the Mountain’s release somehow slipped past me. I was aware of it in the back of my head, saw some lovely reviews singing its praises, but university demanded its pound of blood and I had to make Yaz wait a while. Then, first thing after I submitted my thesis, I went to my local bookstore and purchased the living hell out of the second Book of the Ice (bought along with a copy of Shadow of the Gods, yay). I read it in three sittings, this 370-page book, across six hours or so. Like its predecessor, The Girl and the Mountain flows like silk between your fingers, the flow of its first part drawing you deeper and deeper into the eponymous mountain our girl Yaz has to climb and conquer. This first half is different from The Girl and the Stars in several ways, the first and most obvious of which has to do with the author’s use of multiple points of view. While the first book in the series was only ever told from Yaz’s point of view, the second gives us a peep into the minds of two of the other main characters, water-bending Thurin and Ichta warrior and star quarterback Quell.
The mysteries within the mountain make for excellent fun. Manipulation, misdirection, and a sense of danger dominate the first hundred and eighty pages or so, keeping true to the tone of the previous novel and its cliffhanger ending.
Then comes the second part, which sees a long-awaited journey begin, during which the pacing changes considerably. Some have made issue of this, called the novel uneven because of the way it switches gears, but I would argue that “it is a feature, not a bug”. The slower, more deliberate pacing of a journey that is at first monotonous is a welcome and necessary change; it establishes tone, allows for the reader to connect to the characters’ plight in this very different environment they are faced with.
The character work continues to be the strongest point of a strong series. The bond between Yaz and her friends is now The world is brutal and characters I hoped would get to survive…didn’t. The swiftness with which they were dispatched left me reeling and reading over the words on the page again—it’s a good book that has you invest into characters so deeply as to ache with loss once they’re no longer there.
The ideas Lawrence is playing with as always share equal parts fantasy and science-fictional DNA. Mad artificial intelligences are playing Greek God dress-up, riffing on well-known myths, both to the benefit and detriment of our characters. Of the antagonists, the most interesting and complex is once more Theus, who was once Prometheus, the demon-like essence of one of the Missing still lingering and making appearances when you least expect him. After a contentious relationship with this remnant, I can’t wait to see how his storyline will resolve. To be fair, I’m a sucker for every one of the characters who are still with Yaz by the end of this novel – and with the tight spot they’re all in, I once again find myself applauding Lawrence and cursing his name for leaving off at a cliffhanger eerily familiar to past readers of his work.
I was also surprised to discover a link between the world of Abeth and another Lawrence series I read (and adored): Impossible Times. It’s a hell of a stretch in time and space and it left me at once flabbergasted and appreciative of this complex mosaic Lawrence is rendering into view. Far more tangible is the connection to the Book of the Ancestors trilogy, which I needed very little reason for finally picking up; The Girl and the Mountain has given me that reason—so that’s how I’ll kill a week or two of waiting until the third novel’s release.
You won’t be surprised at my recommending this one. It’s an engrossing sequel Lawrence has written, one that doesn’t suffer from the mid-series slump so many of us fear in every new trilogy. The world of Abeth is a spellbinding place, and a terrifying one—and I’ve grown very fond of it after two short novels; I have to wonder how those of you who have read The Book of the Ancestor feel about the ways in which this latest novel builds over and develops an overarching conflict—was it always hinted at, a plot thread (or several) left unresolved? I suspect I’ll soon find out for myself.