This morning I went off to the polls to vote (listening to my latest Cybils audiobook on the way, of course.) But if you want a break from real-life politics, may I recommend some fantasy politics instead? I was just about over the moon when Rachel Neumeier gave me one of the last two ARCs of her new book at Kidlitcon, so that I can now give you a release day review.
The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier. Saga Press, 2016
Oressa Madalin, princess of Carastind, has always relied on her ability to find out what’s going on in the kingdom without anyone else, most especially her father the king, finding out. The small kingdom of Carastind has always relied on the protection of the Kieba, both to repel intruders and to combat the plagues that come up from time to time. Now, though, it looks like her father may have offended the Kieba and put all of Carastind at risk. The country is being invaded by Gajdosik, a prince of neighboring Tamarist. (Tamarist has the pesky habit of encouraging its princes to fight to the death, winner take the throne.) Oressa’s brother, crown prince Gulien, narrates alternating chapters. He’s the one who takes it on himself to ride to the Mountain of Kept Memory where the Kieba makes her home and the memories of all the dead gods are kept, to try to make peace with her. But with both foreigners and their own father wanting to claim the Kieba’s power for their own, is there a way for Oressa and Gulien to save Carastind?
Once again, a highly satisfying story from Neumeier. I think it’s aimed at adults rather than teens – both Oressa and Gulien are adults, if young – but there’s plenty here to appeal to teens and advanced middle school readers here , as well as treatment of women that differs by culture without being shown as black and white. Interesting thoughts! I like that Oressa is the decisive, risk-taking sibling, even if she’s used to hiding in the shadows, while Gulien is more cautious, trying his best to hold on to the crumbling status quo. The romantic plot line develops slowly, and concerns itself more with the finding of commonality under external differences than with physical passions and the bridling or unbridling thereof, which works very well here. The Mountain of Kept Memory has tricksy politics with no clear solution, well-developed characters, good world building, and lovely writing.