Title: The Mountain of Kept Memory
Author: Rachel Neumeier
Carastind is a country weakened by plague, with aggressive neighbors. But the Kieba, the power that has always protected the country, has had some kind of an argument with the king. Only Oressa and Guilan, the princess and prince, know that if their enemies struck now, Carastind would likely fall. To prevent this, the brother and sister gamble desperately: approaching the Kieba at her strange mountain. But the Kieba has plans of her own . . .
It’s hard to write a good summary of this. In one sense, it’s got the elements of a traditional fantasy: a kingdom in duress, the young prince and princess who are willing to do anything to save it, an enigmatic power, and so on. But it’s how the story moves with those elements that make them really shine. Although this is a world of gods long dead and magics no longer understood, there’s a definite touch of science fiction as well.
I loved Kieba’s mountain. I like intelligent stone anyway, so the living crystal was one of my favorite elements of the book.
I also really liked the characters. Guilen is loyal to his father and his country, which is hard because his father’s actions seem destined to bring down the country, thus forcing the young man to make a series of hard choices. Oressa sees things more simply. She’s a princess in a place where the most that’s expected of her is to make a political marriage, but that hasn’t stopped her from learning everything she can about politics. She’s incredibly strong-minded and competent right from the start, which was refreshing. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t make mistakes, though she takes every setback and tries to find a way through.
One of my favorite parts of the book was a conversation Oressa has with a certain prince, where she fills in both sides of the conversation. My other favorite scene involves the story she tells to explain herself on a journey, and the way she can use even that to her advantage.
The mysteries keep unfolding, the troubles keep building, and the end caps it off perfectly. The story could easily end here, although I’m the sort that always wants to know just a bit more. I’d particularly like to see some of the gods, and learn what it was they did that ended up killing them. I rate this book Recommended.