Friday, August 12, 2016
'Heart of the Mountain' by Jeanette O'Hagan
Twins Delvina and Retza’s greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents’ old crew when they stumble across the strange abovegrounder. Trapped under the mountain, young Zadeki’s only thought is to escape and find his kin. Will the three youngsters pull apart or work together to save the underground realm?
YA fantasy adventure in the lost realm deep under the mountain.
Genre: Fantasy, YA novella
I offered some feedback on earlier versions of this story along the way, and it's been good and interesting to see how it's evolved.
It's a pleasure to come across stories which are short enough to prove that a lot of skillful world building and characterisation can take place without needing heaps of space or wordiness. This is a quick read (just a 45 page e-book) and yet the racial differences between the mountain people and the abovegrounders comes through strong, along with all the attitudes of prejudice and suspicion. The descriptions are finely honed so it's easy to picture the scenery and characters in just a few well-crafted sentences.
The young twins have a mission to prove themselves and aim to earn their places in their tribe. Stumbling across an injured stranger in need of help was never part of their agenda, but they try to figure out how they can use his presence to their advantage.
Lonesome newcomer Zadeki considers himself in the deepest possible fix. The limitations of his captors gradually dawn on him, so he's able to step up when necessary in the perfect timing, and in a way that only he can do. I like stories in which the supposed underdog turns out to be the only one far enough removed from a bad situation to clearly discern problems which others are blind to.
The story is also about the running and mismanagement of kingdoms. It prompts us to consider how easy it is to accept what we've always known, and to take the questionable words of leaders on board with blind acceptance, because that's how we've always behaved. It's about skirting around problems until you can no longer miss them, and also how corruption can breed on itself.
Altogether, engrossing and thought-provoking. As I said, I've had the opportunity for a thorough read of this story along earlier stages, which makes it more difficult to rank, but I'd expect most new readers to want to give it a 4 or 5.
Click here for an interview with the author, Jeanette O'Hagan, back in 2014.