Adult books · Fantasy

Beyond the Red Mountains, by Greg Johnson


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and the thoughts expressed are my own.

This fantasy book’s blurb described Elizabeth and Kelvin, who grew up in two different places and are drawn together by fate. Though it was clear they were in two separate places it was confusing exactly where they were in relation to each other. Over the chapters, it was clear that each lived in a city on either side of a great range of volcanos and thought they were the only people left in the world. It became confusing who lived in which city, especially since they weren’t the main characters in many of the chapters.

For the majority of the chapters, we followed Henry, the Princess’ hand maiden, the Prince and even the King. Pov was switched even between paragraphs. It was frustrating as if the author couldn’t decide who he wanted as the point of view. It appeared that he was using omniscient third-person pov, but I found it didn’t work well and instead became confusing.

These excessive povs meant that we witnessed many unnecessary scenes which made the story very slow. We knew everything that was happening and plotted by the characters. Though this may work for some people, I personally hate it. I didn’t need to know absolutely everything. I would rather the twists and turns of discovering things as the story continues.

In the beginning, we were swamped with several info-dumps on the cities’ history. Though some of it was relevant, we could have easily gone without. It’s clear the author has created a complex world, but these info-dumps could have done with some extreme editing and rewriting.

The Prince’s secret was clichéd, but it made Elizabeth’s situation a little more interesting. It also raised the potential for conflict within the royal family and allowed us to learn more about why Elizabeth married the Prince, if not for love. The twist with her background made her storyline more intriguing and offered a connection between her and the other city. (I won’t go into detail since it is a slight spoiler)

Everyone was quite emotionless, for example, Elizabeth was very clinical about her husband’s secret while she and Kelvin were cold about the death of their friends. They seemed to shrug it off without a care and continue on. Surely losing a friend, especially one who dies before your eyes, would slow you down a bit with your thoughts returning to them for months, even years.

In this world, there are people known as Enlightened, who know the ins and outs of the world which gives them certain abilities similar to magic. Some are born Enlightened, with natural abilities, while others can become Enlightened through years of intense study. They are outlawed everywhere and those trying to become one will be punished. I like this concept, it gave your average person a chance to become more if they simply put it the work. Of course, there’s the possibility that an evil person could use this to gain power which made it seem more realistic, not everyone uses knowledge for good. Many fantasy stories have people born with abilities, so you’re either gifted or not, so sad too bad. This opportunity for normal people was interesting and enjoyable.

It drove me crazy that the character’ always spoke the obvious, like ‘oh look there’s a chair’ even though this was already described by the author and was clear to anyone there. If someone said the sky was blue you’d think them weird, yet everyone did this. It made me want to shake them! It made the characters appear stupid and naïve, especially Elizabeth and Kelvin. They were so thick when anyone went against them or tricked them and had stated it amongst themselves repeatedly even when they were both there at the time. Yet even as they stated this it, it was emotionless, coming off as a weak attempt at dialogue which didn’t provide anything and made this slow story even slower.

It’s clear the author has created a complex world, but the actual book was slow and frustrating. It was a struggle to finish this novel and I give it 2/5.


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