Saturday, 12 December 2020

Mountain Arrow

Mountain Arrow by Rachel Hennessy (MidnightSun) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9781925227741

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

In this second instalment of The Burning Days trilogy, protagonist Pandora wants to help her post-apocalyptic village recover from a devastating disease. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes clear that finding the cure for the disease in the ruins of the old city is not enough. Humanity is losing its fragile grip on its environment, and Pan discovers that there is more to the devastation of The Burning, and the dangerous humanoid hybrids that lurk the ruined city, than she has been taught. Pan and company set off again, to try to solve the mysteries which seem to lie beneath the challenges facing their communities.

Reliable young adult themes of friendship, independence and romance form a subtext to societal breakdown, interspecies conflict, and genetic engineering has gone wrong. The text invites intriguing consideration of the parallels between the treatment of werewolf-esque crossbreeds by the characters and real-world race relations. Science, which apparently saved the day for Pan’s village home in River Stone, the first book in the series, is called into serious question as the novel progresses.

This book suffers slightly from the middle-book doldrums common to trilogies in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. In forming a bridge between the beginning and the end of a saga, the middle book tends to progress the series plot arc and character development without achieving a genuine crescendo within the standalone novel. We spend this book edging ever closer to revealing the mysterious underbelly of this dystopian land and bringing the characters towards a clearer sense of a larger purpose, but without a concrete climax.

Although some may find this frustrating, Hennessy builds tension and weaves in twists and changes of pace to avoid the book bogging itself down. Readers will eagerly anticipate the finale, to be called City Knife, to find out what happens in the end. As a reader new to the series, it left me itching to find and read book one, so as to better understand the backstory.

This series is a cracker for teenage fans of dystopian fiction and is aimed at readers aged 12 years and above. The book is unflinchingly violent but has a light touch when it comes to romance. While it is possible to pick this up without having read River Stone, the experience is likely to be more satisfying for those who start the series at the beginning.

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