The Blue Mountain is in my Sunday Spotlight today. The second in The Forbidden List series by GR Matthews, this book continues the journey of Haung and Zhou, two young heroes of a political hotspot in an Asian-inspired fantasy land far east.
Once again, GR Matthews impresses with the lyrical beauty of his storytelling. Only, this time, it’s way more magical and breathtaking in The Blue Mountain than the very enjoyable first book in the series, The Stone Road.
The Blue Mountain starts somewhat abruptly. However, the sensuous slow and elaborate unfurling of a captivating magic system makes up for the initial feeling of a lack of connection to Book 1 (maybe it’s just me, as I was reading another ARC between these books). The suddenness disappears once we realize our young heroes are after the Dragon Emperor’s orders and taking up the responsibilities and training allotted for them.
A few new characters spring up right in the beginning. Xiong-mao is easily the next best character in The Blue Mountain. She doesn’t have much background build up yet, but her presence and slow transformation from Zhou’s teacher/trainer to a friend and more is a beautiful journey.
Asian philosophies and the doctrines of ancient Asian religions have always been subjects of fascination to me. I love the way GR infuses the beliefs and thoughts into Xiong-mao’s teachings. The part where she leads Zhou to a deeper understanding of the significance of the stone stairs is GR’s signature style, a simplicity of narration mixed with a stunning visual effect. The author doesn’t use big words or complicated names to throw the readers off the track.
Zhou is introduced to the spirit world soon.
Magic is elaborately detailed in this book. I wished for a little more supernatural substance associated with the real world tale of ambition, politics, and vengeance when I read the first book. No more complaints now. I have thoroughly enjoyed the uniqueness of GR’s magic in The Blue Mountain.
The appearance of shapeshifters for the first time in the series is an exciting turn as our focus shifts from martial arts (which I love but never really thought was the highlight of the set as of now).
The blue mountain has some wonderfully quotable prose and indulges the readers in Lavish worldbuilding. The mountain, the wall (The great wall of China?), Mongols living in the cramped inns, description is GR’s forte, and no less magical than the last chapter, the final defense against the invading foe.
Mongols, oh, yes, the Mongols. The Mongols in this book are dirty, somewhat barbaric, but fiercely ambitious warrior tribes invading the lands of Zhou and Huang. They have magical and tactical expertise in war and are one of the main factions in The Blue Mountain.
The old characters from the previous books are still the heroes of Book 2.
Haung struggles with more responsibilities and an increase in the time away from his family, a wife trying to adjust to her new life, and a charming little boy. Jian, his wife, shows some signs of impatience in this upgraded but confined life away from the ordinary people. I have a feeling Jian is going to have a more significant role in the next book.
Zhou enjoys the spotlight again. His training, his quests, his unquenched thirst for vengeance and pain of losing his family in a brutal manner, his humanity, all his experiences are major subplots for the book. Zhou remains the most significant player in the great game.
The book ends with an agonizingly perfect cliffhanger, and I am glad I have the third book. Otherwise, I would have had nasty dreams of hanging GR from the cliff for pulling off that stunt. Joking, GR.
All in all, The Blue Mountain is magical, stunning, better developed regarding characterization and plot compared to its predecessor. GR’s writing style makes the book a fast read and a very satisfying experience.
I am going for the next one. Hope you are getting the books from wherever you get your books and planning to catch up with me. They are in Kindle Unlimited too, if you want a taste before investing in some GR awesomeness.