starlady: (abhorsen)
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Bear, Elizabeth. By the Mountain Bound. New York: Tor Books, 2009.

For someone who doesn't care for Norse fantasy, I've certainly been reading a lot of it this year. By the Mountain Bound is the prequel to, though published after, All the Windwracked Stars, which I read earlier this year and liked (though I would disagree categorically with Bear's characterization of these books as "steampunk." Techno-fantasy, sure, steampunk, no). It's not a spoiler for either book to say that Mountain ends where Stars begins, in the cold and the snow at the end of the world (heck, for that matter, Stars arguably ends in the same place, 2000 years later). To some extent both books are the same story, and in some respects the same tragedy: that of Strifbjorn, leader of the children of the Light, his lover Mingan, the Grey Wolf, a survivor of the world before, and their sister Muire, a historian and poet and the last and least of the Children, who loves Strifbjorn hopelessly. When another survivor from ruined Midgard turns up on the shore by Strifbjorn's hall, she sows dissension among the Children that will lead to the end of the world as everyone knows it.

It's interesting to see both Muire and Mingan, in this book, being both more and less than they are in All the Windwracked Stars, though Stars is unquestionably Muire's book, and in the same way Mountain is Mingan's. One character describes the Wolf as innocent early in the book, after that innocence is already partly lost, and weirdly, he is, though he's also a literally Luciferean character ("which way I fly is Hell, myself am Hell…"), as befits the wolf who ate the sun. Still, it makes me wonder whether the final book, The Sea Thy Mistress, will be Strifbjorn's (I think yes. I also think that several characters from Mountain who don't show up in Stars will be returning for a reckoning. How many times can the world end, and begin again? Is, as Strifbjorn claims, the memory of love the only thing that survives the apocalypse?). In some ways these books are clearly about growing up, about casting aside external guidance in favor of one's internal ethical choices, which is hugely difficult even when the fate of the world doesn't rest on one's actions.

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Date: 2009-11-08 10:33 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
the pegaso tokidoki pattern is so cute! aaah!


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