We live in an fascinating era exactly where the genre of fantasy is getting restlessly reinvented by a fresh wave of revolutionary, trailblazing authors. But an individual neglect to tell Rachel Neumeier that. Her most current standalone novel, The Mountain of Kept Memory, chugs along with blissful conventionality, as if the last couple decades of evolution in fantasy by no means happened. The essential word here, though, is blissful.
Oressa and her older brother Gulien are the princess and prince of Carastind, a kingdom in the midst of turmoil. A rival realm, Tamarist, is exerting its influence over their homeland in a way that borders on outright invasion. The siblings — she’s clever and headstrong he’s thoughtful and protective — fret more than the possibility of forced marriages for the sake of peace-keeping expedience. When the political circumstance starts to boil over, Gulien undertakes a quest to speak to the Kieba, a cryptic, godlike figure who lives in the heart of the only mountain in the otherwise flat land of Carastind. Meanwhile Oressa requires a path that leads to the gathering storm of a military campaign, exactly where she realizes she’s far more than just a cloistered princess.
At very first, it is tough not to view Carastind’s geography as an unintentional symbol for the book itself. It gets off to a quite featureless start. Mountain does not overhaul, deconstruct, or even noticeably shake up the well-worn tropes of high fantasy — not counting a thread of science fiction that Neumeier beautifully, subtly weaves into her swords-and-magic milieu.
‘The Mountain of Kept Memory’ chugs along with blissful conventionality, as if the final couple decades of evolution in fantasy in no way occurred. The key word here, even though, is blissful.
But as Oressa and Gulien, estranged from their father and drawn deeper into the secrets of the Kieba, struggle to save their kingdom, the book requires off. The slow pace and all-as well familiar terrain gives way to a richly built world. Neumeier packs her setting with luscious detail, from the dye market that feeds the economy all the way up to the dead gods whose vestigial power nevertheless holds sway. Carastind has been beset for centuries by a host of supernatural plagues, and that tragic backdrop lends the story a poignant gravity — and it ties into the enigma of a trauma-stricken world that is forgotten considerably of its past.
The connection amongst Oressa and Gulien is even far more compelling. It’s a familiar formula, but for a reason — it operates. There is a lot of emotional depth as effectively as lighthearted repartee between them, and it is underpinned by a broader, if equally familiar theme: The power of the gods can be a double-edged blade. Neumeier knows how to spin myths and archetypes, and Mountain oozes them. Aristocracies vie for influence. Artifacts are keys to hidden energy. Magic is a true but mysterious force. It really is nothing that veteran fantasy authors like Guy Gavriel Kay, Raymond Feist, and Patricia McKillip haven’t completed a million occasions just before. Then once again, that’s sturdy company to be in.
To be fair, Neimeier is far from the only author nowadays writing resolutely conventional fantasy. And there’s practically nothing inherently wrong with doing so, specifically when it is done with as a lot consideration and enjoy for the genre as she clearly has — and when the current, significant climate of fantasy calls for some relative lightness here and there. Her world is intricate and immersive, and her characters really feel like home. It’s okay that the pace isn’t precisely pulse-pounding, although Mountain does have its gripping moments of action, suspense, and shattering revelation. This isn’t the type of story to race by means of. It’s 1 to linger more than, and a planet to get lost in.