Rachel Hennessy, Mountain Arrow (Book Two of The Burning Days), MidnightSun, November 2020, 368 pp., RRP $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925227741
River Stone – Book One of The Burning Days was published in April 2019. It was original and fresh, and I gave it a very positive review.
Mountain Arrow – Book Two of The Burning Days unfortunately suffers the fate of many second instalments in book trilogies; not a lot happens. Its main purpose is to set up the story for the climactic conclusion – which will be in book three.
I’m struggling to offer a synopsis, as the narrative is so weak. In River Stone we are introduced to Pandora, who is a strong and principled young woman, torn by her commitment to her parents’ way of life, and her strong attraction to Bayat, a young man from another tribe. So much happens in River Stone, including the quintessential ‘journey’, which usually occurs in book two of a trilogy. With the journey already travelled, Mountain Arrow is bereft of a core.
The bulk of the novel is taken up with Pandora vacillating between staying with Matthew, the partner chosen for her by her village as the perfect ‘mate’, or following her heart, and going with Bayat. I often found her irritating and whingey and wished she’d just get on with it! The pace was sluggish at times and I found myself skimming paragraphs. It is overly long at 368 pages.
Part of the issue with the book is the many references to people and incidents from River Stone, but Hennessy does not provide the context to help the reader remember their relevance. Younger, more agile minds may not find this an issue, but with a gap of eighteen months since I last travelled with Pandora, I was struggling to remember!
A number of chapters are narrated by Pan’s friend Fatima, who was lost on their journey to the city in River Stone. She is using an old cassette recorder to tell Pan where she is and what is happening to her. These chapters are more dynamic, as the community in which she finds herself is close to where the ‘ferals’ (or ‘chimera’) are lurking. The community leader, Kalina, is also key to understanding how the ferals were created and is linked to Bayat and his twin brother.
In Mountain Arrow, Hennessy has drawn the different strands of the story towards a climax, which will obviously occur in Book Three. It is, in of itself, not a riveting read. However, it does give the reader the key elements necessary for the conclusion of the story.
Reviewed by Gaby Meares