The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier
In this gorgeous fantasy in the spirit of Guy Gavriel Kay and Robin McKinley, a prince and a princess must work together to save their kingdom from outside invaders…and dangers within.
Long ago the Kieba, last goddess in the world, raised up her mountain in the drylands of Carastind. Ever since then she has dwelled and protected the world from unending plagues and danger…
Gulien Madalin, heir to the throne of Carastind, finds himself more interested in ancient history than the tedious business of government and watching his father rule. But Gulien suspects that his father has offended the Kieba so seriously that she has withdrawn her protection from the kingdom. Worse, he fears that Carastind’s enemies suspect this as well.
Then he learns that he is right. And invasion is imminent.
Meanwhile Gulien’s sister Oressa has focused on what’s important: avoiding the attention of her royal father while keeping track of all the secrets at court. But when she overhears news about the threatened invasion, she’s shocked to discover what her father plans to give away in order to buy peace.
But Carastind’s enemies will not agree to peace at any price. They intend to not only conquer the kingdom, but also cast down the Kieba and steal her power. Now, Gulien and Oressa must decide where their most important loyalties lie, and what price they are willing to pay to protect the Kieba, their home, and the world.
This should have been right up my alley. I love fantasy. I love political drama. I love intriguing difficulties and intrigues. But somehow it all fell flat.
I think I figured out the biggest part of my problem, the first two-thirds of the book feels like a prologue. There are a ton of obstacles and conflict that’s set up, and then it’s all just casually brushed aside or solved. There’s no suspense or drama to it, just set up the problem, quickly resolve it. Repeat.
And to be honest, after waiting so long, and pushing myself to read to get to the real conflict, I just didn’t care much anymore what it was or what happened to the characters. Because they weren’t well developed either. They weren’t two-dimensional, exactly, but they were exactly who you’d expect them to be. There were no surprises in their characters, and every twist I expected came to pass … which made it feel not very much like a twist at all.
At that point it was all I could do to skim to the end. But that was when I got sucked in. At least for a little while. That was when the intrigues, the deceptions, the obstacles all became more urgent and simply interesting. The characters, all those unclimactic moments before that didn’t seem to really do anything started to seem a bit like character building. And while I never really came to see anything particularly intriguing in Guilen or Oressa, I did become extremely interested in Gajdosik and Oris, for almost opposite reasons. Probably because I wasn’t in their heads and didn’t know them inside and out.
At one point I would have said the best part of the book was the ‘who do we trust’ aspect – but having finally finished it, and everything coming out exactly as I expected it to (more or less), I can’t say that anymore. There were no surprises here. No twists that made me excited to have continued on.
Also, a good conversation between a few characters could have cleared up a lot. But I feel like, in all honesty, the character that should have explained didn’t really have an explanation for their actions, because it was a plot machination, or something. It didn’t make sense to me at any rate. I still don’t understand the reason behind it, except it had to happen to move the plot the way it went.
I did actually end up finishing this book. But I can’t exactly say that I enjoyed it. The potential was there in so many aspects. The world was on the edge of being amazing – except it just wasn’t developed enough – I still don’t understand the magic, or the gods, or their powers, or what the heck the Keiba or the kephalos does. The characters could have been fully realized and evolved, but they read a little too much like any other character I’ve ever read, where we got any real development. And aside from one character who was ambiguous, they were either good or bad. Then the plot just meandered and threw up these huge obstacles, only to gently shove them aside in favor for the next one. One might think that this would ratchet up the tension beautifully, but it really just left me frustrated and bored and wondering when the point of the story would actually begin.
I suppose it’s fitting that I ended up as frustrated with how neatly the story tied up as I was nearly the entire time I was reading.