A Mountain’s Bane by Alexander De Pego (Review)
Rating: 3/5 Link: Amazon
A sequel in any genre, be it fantasy or otherwise, is always a hard ask to follow but Alexander De Pego manages to keep the same level of mysticism and high intensity action, building on from the first novel in ‘The Fabled Elephant’ series. At the same time, the world that he’s built has become infinitely more vast, with the introduction of new characters, creatures and places keeping things fresh in ’A Mountain’s Bane’. Yui Fei, in particular, is a compelling character with an amazing arc, who I would love to see heading up his own series in the future.
However, just like what was found in ‘When Elephants Fly’, the same issues with editing and pacing continue to dodge the heels of the sequel, which break the flow of an incredibly compelling story. Despite this, I recommend ‘A Mountain’s Bane’ for those who are looking for a quick fantasy fix by an author who clearly excels in scribing some of the most descriptive and vivid fight scenes to be found in fantasy.
Mo Yui Fei, Mo Problems
Terrible pun aside, the introduction of Yui Fei is incredibly refreshing for the series. A no nonsense character, with the strength of a giant and blood thirsty appetite, he is the perfect foil for both the wild Midas and the quiet Shadow, making them quite the trio has they hunt down the elusive Lilith. His relationship with Ji, her subsequent death and his arc of vengeance, in particular, is incredibly compelling and, despite having little to not introduction to his beloved, Alexander managed to craft their relationship with so few words in such a believable way that I didn’t really blink an eye when Yui Fei’s revenge story against the Mo abruptly began within the first few pages of the novel. Speaking of the Mo, I have the feeling that they are merely there to mainly give the protagonists something to hit or to kill. Despite my misgivings on that front, the role that they play in Yui Fei’s overarching revenge story can’t be ignored or devalued, giving the protagonists a focus point for their quest against the Council.
Shadow and Midas’ relationship
Friendly, a telltale cringe at some parts, but overall a very heartwarming bond forms between Midas and Shadow, survivors from the first book of the series ‘When Elephant’s Fly’. We see the world through the eyes of the spunky and clueless Midas, which mirrors the own readers ignorance about the fantasy world that Alexander built and allows the author to introduce new parts of the world to the reader through Midas’ own inquisitive mind. Her growing relationship and fondness for Shadow mirrors the growing strength of her powers and the journey she takes to mastering her own strengths is completely natural, through trial and error, and complements Shadow’s own power set perfectly.
Although the nature of their relationship is still murky, whether it be romantic or more of a father-daughter atmosphere, it can’t be denied that their interactions are the highlight of the novel, giving it a little more lightness and mirth in comparison to the dark repetition of Shadow’s death and the downbeat atmosphere that brings in the first book of the series.
Sprawling world, sprawling words
Alas, no book is perfect and ‘A Mountain’s Bane’ is no exception. The pacing issues that dogged the first book continue their run of form in the sequel. It is especially prevalent when Shadow is interacting with others outside of his conversations with Midas, such as with the dwarves or with Yui Fei near the end of the novel. The inconsistent pacing does throw readers off the novel, making it a chore to continue reading through the middle part of the novel after the brilliant opening chapter. However, these pacing issues seemingly resolve themselves closer to the climax and ending of the novel and, as such, doesn’t change my view that Alexander has managed to craft a wonderful, but flawed, follow up to his impressive first novel.
Overall, a great fantasy romp for lovers of the genre, if you can look past the dodgy pacing and awkward interactions between third view characters and Shadow.