Who doesn’t love a world entirely thrown into chaos? The Mountain of Kept Memory traverses new territory with crystallized memory and a pantheon of dead gods, while keeping us rooted in the familiar with the quest of a madman to obtain ultimate power and the desperate bid of one woman and her brother to save the kingdom Carastand.
When Princess Oressa finds herself in the middle of an unexpected battle outside her own palace, she does the only thing she can think to—she scales the roof. That choice catapults her into a web of intrigue from her father’s attempts to subvert the mighty Kieba, whose powers have been the only things between Carastand and disastrous plagues, to the invading prince Gajdosik’s plot to take over Carastand. Oressa and her brother struggle to walk the line between their loyalty to the Kieba and their father, but as more invaders come, they realize that they will have to choose.
That synopsis really doesn’t do the book justice. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any way on earth to capture the book in a single paragraph. It’s a long story, but it never lulls. If you like a richly developed world, this book has it. The Mountain of Kept Memory hits all the criteria for me in assessing a good book. The characters are multi-faceted and in no way cliché or stereotypical. There’s plenty of intricate description, but Neumeier still never sacrifices readability.
I’d like to also call out a pair of highlights that I particularly loved. First, Oressa might be the most ladylike tomboy to ever grace fiction. Nowadays, people go a little too far in making women, princesses in particular, so far from feminine they might be boys in disguise. Oressa defies the trend by being a capable, intelligent human being while also still a relatable woman with relatable female characteristics. She cares about her appearance, just not to excess, and she’s also incredibly level-headed (when she isn’t reaming out a certain invader who blew up her palace).
Second, I want to talk about the kephalos, the voice of the crystallized memory. I have never seen a fantasy novel come so close to having a computer and still remain delightfully entertaining. The kephalos isn’t a computer, but it speaks in monotone (a bit like the ship in Star Trek) and it contains, basically, all the memory of the world. Thankfully, it isn’t all powerful, in that it—mostly—must obey the Kieba’s orders and it can be subdued by a rival for the Kieba’s power.
By now, I hope I’ve sold you all on The Mountain of Kept Memory. I had no idea what to expect going into it. I’d never heard of it, saw it at a book store, and bought it on impulse. Not a strategy I’d normally recommend, but it’s $17 I would gladly spend all over again.