The House of Mountfathom
UK PUBLISHER: Hot Key Books
The House of Mountfathom. A place of wonder, magic and mystery. A house with doors that lead to faraway places, where shape-shifting and smoke-summoning are as commonplace as the rising and setting of the sun.
Luke is the son of the noble house with a magical education to fulfil; Killian, a sharp-tongued street urchin with an agenda of his own. Together the pair will have to tread a unique and brave path if they are to save the House of Mountfathom and preserve the very peace of the land…
This book was more unique than most. I throughly enjoyed the enchanting descriptions that contributed to the world building, as well as the author’s choppy yet poetic writing style. However the story itself was nothing like I expected, and while I can’t say I loved the plot, it did strike a chord that left me thinking about it long after the last page was turned.
Luke is the only child of Lord and Lady Mounthfathom, one day to inherit the family’s magical mansion, along with the responsibility to remain a peace keeper for the realm. But as Luke’s training progresses, unrest and uprisings break out across the country, and suddenly he and his family are stuck between two warring sides - both of whom thirst for the destruction of Luke’s family, and all who wield the power of magic…
I found this a very difficult book to review.
The opening prologue is rather confusing (although you will get an “A-HA” moment near the end of the book) but that, mixed with the clipped writing style makes the first few pages difficult to navigate. However I soon found myself really enjoying the choppy writing. It keep’s you present, allowing you to live in the story alongside the characters, and I felt it really enhanced the descriptions.
However while the writing felt quick, it also helped balance the slow unfurling of the plot. And by slow I mean crawling. You literally follow the main character Luke from cradle to mid-teens, and while I wasn't bored reading through his childhood, after I finished the book I couldn't help but wonder WHAT the point of it all was - other than a chance to enrich the world.
Mid-way through the book though, we are introduced to a new character, Killian, who spices things up as he is the opposite to Luke in every way. From Killian’s point of entry, the story is then split into Killian and Luke’s dual narratives, which really helps up the pacing.
By the time you are two thirds into the story, the action really begins to snowball, faster and faster… until it suddenly stops. Not just stops, but the action literally disappears, and the story takes a sudden new route. As a reader this really threw me, and left me completely baffled with the ending.
However, what kept me reading was throughout the book there was an underlying theme surrounding Luke, centring around his fear of stepping away from his sheltered life into the unknown - in this case - a magical void of darkness in which lurks a monster.
Is that monster death? Life? Fear itself? In many ways - this sudden philosophical turn in the story is left to the readers imagination, but this was the moment I found Nigel McDowell’s writing truly beautiful, and extremely deep. I also felt like the book was trying to send some kind of message or life lesson, and unfortunately, I hate when books do that.
Therefore somewhat disgruntled by the ending, I then went on to read the authors Bio as I usually do, only to discover that Nigel McDowell passed away at the age of 34, shortly after completion of this novel.
I’m not sure why, but suddenly I appreciated this book a lot more. I’m only surmising, but I felt this story was very personal to the author and is perhaps even a echo of his thoughts and what ifs.
It turned what I thought was a preachy ending, into a story that required some more time for contemplation and quiet reflection.
Even so, I don't think this book is for everyone. Sold as a middle-grade novel, I think children will be ensnared by the magic and imagination of the world and characters, but regardless of age - I think most readers will still find the story itself somewhat flat. All in all, I’d give this book 3 stars. However I will most definitely be reading Nigel McDowell’s other two books, THE BLACK NORTH, and TALES FROM PITCH END.
RIP Nigel McDowell.
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Have any of you read this book? If so what were you're thoughts? Or did you prefer another of the authors books?