Review published on July 24, 2017.
This is the latest fantasy novel from Joan Lennon aimed at teenagers “12 years and above” and I am considerably “above”. I have not read Lennon before, but I was pulled into the story quickly and effectively.
As an almost aside we are told that in deep space there are “Drivers” who “herd” asteroids and prevent them crashing into planets and causing damage. Unfortunately one asteroid escaped and three Drivers set off to retrieve it.
In another time, in another place, on another planet, the mountain that everybody knows walks, apparently starts to walk in the other direction causing major environmental destruction. Pema (teenage boy) is sent to speak to the “white ladies” who live up the mountain to ask if this true and can anything be done. They pooh-pooh his fears. But he does meet young acolyte Singay – a very unlikely prospective nun. They travel into the mountain itself and meet a strange character – Rose – who becomes alarmed at their tale of moving mountains. It turns out that he is one of the original three Drivers, who have tried to reverse the damage to the planet caused by the crashing asteroid. But he is weakening and can only stop the movement if he rejoins his two compatriots. This novel, in short, is about the attempt of the three to find the other two drivers and return the mountain to its old course.
As they travel, Lennon gives us a strange world of diverse people types and animals. Recognisably human, they are different too but with much the same emotions and fears. Pema and Singay will meet people kind and casually generous, to those intent on mischief, parasitism or power on their trip. We see their fears at the strange environment and the building of closer bonds between the three from casual moments to those of great danger. Rose, so much older, carries his own guilt and sense of responsibility. All will grow and change. At the end of the quest they will find – no I am not allowed to tell that – but I can say things might be better, but surely at a price.
This is a compelling novel that flows along at pace. But still finding time to explore, almost incidentally, environmental change and fights against it, respect for other plants and animals, relationships between seemingly different people as well as personal courage, loyalty and sacrifice. Key themes, too, must be the exploration of the perception of personal current time against the immensity of time of the planet and wider universe and the balance of the needs of one against the wider community and ecosystem.
So definitely enjoyable, seemingly a simple “quest” story, with interesting central characters, encountering a diversity of new people and places. The tenor is mostly light and incidents amusing, but behind this the novel is subtly asking deeper questions of morality or rightness of behaving to others. Images and thoughts linger.
Hilary White 4/4
Walking Mountain by Joan Lennon
BC Books 9781780274560 pbk Jun 2017