The Girl and the Mountain – Mark Lawrence

“There had been a great fire and there had been a great flood.”

The second instalment of The Book of the Ice picks up from the cliffhanger ending of The Girl and the Stars – so usual warning that e.g. even mentioning characters who appear in book 2 could be mild spoilers for book 1. Read on at your own peril!

Book 1 took Yaz from the ice to the caverns underneath, and ends with her rising again to ‘the mountain’, the black rock that is home to the tribes’ priests. All is not what it seems, of course, and Yaz’s mission to right the wrongs inflicted on her people continues here. But book 2 is also the journey from mountain through ice towards the green lands, and to be honest the transition between these different bits of story didn’t wholly work for me. I think the author knew where he wanted the narrative to go, but the getting there just felt a little on the clunky side.

Perhaps it was just me, but I did find myself feeling like I’d missed a chapter or at least a paragraph as the mid-book climax was reached. It all felt a little rushed, and – hah hah – anti-climatic? The cliffhanger from book 1 just set up such peril that it almost felt too swiftly dispatched – not that there isn’t great threat, but… I dunno, it just didn’t work for me all that well. Possibly it’s just the way this section is squished between other things, it feels transitory and more for necessity, not quite given enough time or attention. It’s by no means terrible, just… hmm.

The second half sees … ahem, some of (!) … the characters set off on an even more impossible journey, across the frozen wastelands towards the mythical ‘green lands’. At this point I felt we’d reached the real purpose of the book, and the writing settled down a lot for me. The dangers are just as terrible, and I really got caught up in the characters living through the deprivations of the deadly cold in a way that the first half hadn’t managed to draw me in.

This and the ending salvaged the book for me completely. There have been hints all the way through of the more sci-fi aspects of this fantasy series, and we get some more of those. We also get the most direct link yet to the wonderful Red Sister trilogy – and those more eagle-eyed than me will get to realise that this is set before the earlier books. Quite how that affects the overall narrative I’m not yet sure, but I might have to go re-read The Book of the Ancestor. As soon as everything started tying in, I was more than happy that I’d had to do this similar long journey to get here.

I’ve been a bit critical here, but it’s more a tinge of disappointment that it’s not as amazing as some of the previous works, I suppose. The writing is still wonderful, and I even felt the need to scribble down a few quotes that really spoke to me – not all fantasy/SFF fiction can claim that! It’s also really intriguing to learn more about the tribes, the Missing, and Abeth in general, and where this book ultimately succeeds is leaving me scrabbling to pick up the final part of the trilogy – due out next week! – and hoping to discover more of the secrets.

Oh yes, and to find out where the new cliffhanger ending will take us!

The Girl and the Mountain book coverKindle: 448 pages / 41 chapters
First published: 2021
Series: Book of the Ice book 2
Read from 15th-22nd April 2022

My rating: 7/10

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