4 out of 4 stars
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In Greg Johnson’s young adult novel, Beyond the Red Mountains, the reader is transported on a journey through new lands full of mystery, deceit and peril.
When Kelvin and Elizabeth are brought together by fate, they begin to realise that all they have been taught is based on a lie. Kelvin, growing up in the beautiful city of Triopolis, believed along with the rest of the population, that nothing existed beyond the mountains encircling the city. Elizabeth, in Westville, was taught to never go into the dangerous, barbarian filled forest. When the two meet in Westville, they begin to learn all that has been hidden many years ago from the people of both cities.
Caught up in a murder and presumed guilty, the two flee, aiming for Kelvin’s home of Triopolis and safety. The two embark on a journey of epic proportions as they travel across unknown lands with dangers at every turn. Can they make it to their destination against all odds or will the mistakes they made on the way come back to haunt them?
Written in third person, this is a multi-layered story which encompasses many topics while still appealing to its target audience. Kelvin, struggling for his father’s approval, and Elizabeth, stuck in a loveless relationship, are both issues which young adults can relate to. Not only this, issues such as homosexuality, adoption, friendship and overcoming adversity are all intertwined throughout the book with such class that it doesn’t distract from the overall story.
The characters are all well written and realistic. The story focuses mainly on Kelvin and Elizabeth, although there are many secondary characters who have pivotal parts to play in the story. Kelvin is an eager, hardworking young man, who has struggled to discover his place in the world. He finds a father figure in his friend and mentor, Henry, which helps to show that family doesn’t always mean related by blood. Elizabeth is a mature young woman who, after a relatively sheltered life, tries to cope the best she can with the extreme situations in which she finds herself. She undergoes a lot of self-discovery on their journey, coming to terms with who she is and the powers that lie within her.
This is a novel which I can see young adults enjoying immensely. The author has a way of mixing mystery, magic, love and loss into a seamless tapestry of storytelling which, to some extent, has an almost Lord of the Rings feel to it. As part of a series, the book ends on a cliff-hanger, but the story is resolved enough that the reader is not left feeling unfulfilled.
The story moves along at a quick pace, but at times I found the style of writing a little bit stilted, which did have an impact on the flow. However, this did not alter my overall enjoyment of the book and I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. It is a story of discovery for the characters, not only about themselves, but in the world in which they live. I would recommend this book to a wide audience because even though it is based in a fantasy world, there’s a lot of realism to it. Those readers, both young and old, who enjoy journeys of adventure and overcoming hardship, this book is for you.
beyond the red mountains
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