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09/20/2004 Entry: "Caitlin Brennan's THE MOUNTAIN'S CALL--More Than Girlish Fantasy (Lynn)"

Mountain's Call

I almost didn't read THE MOUNTAIN'S CALL or even buy it. Magic white horses who have mystical bonds with their riders? A "the only girl" plot? I was thinking unflattering things about Mercedes Lackey wannabes, and even Lackey's take on that can be a little twee.

The beginning was unpromising--girl gets mystic call to magic mountain, even though girls have never been called to this sort of thing for a thousand years. (Don't writers get how *long* a thousand years is?) Also, she disguises herself as a boy during some of the initial testing. Despite this, I sure kept turning the pages.

I had heard that this Caitlin Brennan was Judith Tarr writing under a pseudonym, so even though I sort of cringed, I bought it. It just goes to show that there is no cliche or idea so obvious that a good writer can't make something really excellent out of it.

Short summary: doom is coming and only the heroine will be able to save the country, and possibly the world. But tradition and male hostility may cause her to be rejected, possibly cause her death, and prevent her from getting the training she needs. Additionally, a "prince" from a hostile country is trying to subvert her and seduce her over to their side.

The story has unexpected grit in a number of places that I think would offer a hard transition for a reader coming to this Luna book out of romance tropes, but I found it to be a very satisfying story. The two most obvious gritty bits are a near rape near the beginning of the book and the conflict between and appealing nature of the two main male characters, along with the sexual relationship the heroine has at various points with each of them. It isn't at all an obvious "good" and "evil" story.

I particularly liked a secondary character who is the heiress to the kingdom. She has real power and the willingness to make decisions and own her power.

The horses were also wonderful and very naturalistic for all their godlike powers, which is only to be expected since Tarr raises Lipizzan horses.

So, in spite of an unpromising premise, this is a wonderful book. Highly recommended. I want the next one!--Lynn

--THE MOUNTAIN'S CALL review page
--Our Luna Books feature page
--Read review of another Tarr horse fantasy, A WIND IN CAIRO

Replies: 5 Comments

I was wondering what other popular books in the fantasy genre have been about girl and horse. Are there enough for me to create a poll to have the site's readers choose a favorite?

Posted by Preeti @ 09/20/2004 10:00 PM ET

I have been very disappointed with the Luna books thus far (I admit I have only tried three of them.) The story premises of the ones I tried were appealing but the writing styles really turned me off, even the one by Catherine Asaro, whom I have read and enjoyed before. The characters were inconsistent or the transformations did not flow naturally or logically. They just felt clumsy in the reading. I have not tried any of the recent ones for this reason - do you think I dare?

Posted by mary anne @ 09/21/2004 06:40 PM ET

Girl and horse...Other than the Valdemar books, there's Britain's _Green Rider_ series, Pierce's Immortals series (the one with Daine and her horse Cloud - though I'm not sure if the girl-horse thing is strong enough in there to count). Those are all I can think of at the moment.

Posted by Lauralee @ 09/22/2004 11:41 AM ET

There are girl/horse strains in The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley).

Posted by muse @ 09/22/2004 09:08 PM ET

Thanks for the review. I had no idea that Judith Tarr was writing for Luna. I'm wondering why she chose to go with a pseudonym.I've been disappointed with the two previous Luna books I've read. But I perused this at the store and was intrigued enough to buy it -my first Luna purchase.

Posted by DH @ 10/03/2004 07:17 PM ET

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