The Mountains of Channadran by Susan Dexter (Fontana, 1987)
The Mountains of Channadran is the third book in the 'Winter King’s War' trilogy.
After various challenges have led him to the throne, Tristan’s kingdom is not secure. The creeping ice and snow sent by their ultimate enemy, Nimir, mean that crops are failing even in midsummer and the future looks bleak for the people of Calandra.
Tristan joins his wife Elisena, close friend Polassar, horse Valadan, cat Thomas and canary Minstrel to travel right into the heart of Nimir’s territory intending to attack him on his own ground. They may or may not be safer in their quest for the presence of former enemy Reynaud.
The quest involves a gruelling trek across glaciers into the frozen waste that is the epicentre of Nimir’s power. Their harsh journey is broken only with a temporary rest period in the tower of a sage, Royston Ambere, who lives there with his daughter. Ambere has a profound connection to birds, and the party’s supplies are brought to them later in their quest by eagles at his command.
There was a great deal of action in The Mountains of Channadran, mostly in the form of challenges provided by the icy conditions. The risk of death was everpresent, and there were plenty of times when there appeared to be only the slenderest chances of success for their mission. I found the characters of the animals intriguing.
It isn’t customary in fantasy for animals to have developed personalities, or for their ability to communicate with humans to be more than a novelty. However, Tristan is able to speak to each of them and they all played central parts in the plot. I loved how ironic Thomas the Cat was, and Valadan’s loyalty and Minstrel’s determination to be a part of the quest were very touching.
The Mountains of Channadran was written in the third person, and it did occasionally move into the point of view of characters beside Tristan. However, he remained the central of the plot focus, and almost all of the tale was told through his eyes. The story could have been told in the first person with very little alteration, but the intense focus on Tristan meant that it almost felt as if it had been.
I would have liked to have seen much more of Ambere’s daughter Welslin, who is known as Fateweaver. A fascinating backstory was created for her, only to fall away after her brief appearance. This was very much a book about men, with Elisena a distant figure and the reader only occasionally given glimpses into her heart. I’d like to have heard more of her story, too.
The Mountains of Channadran was a cracking quest epic in the best fantasy tradition, and the addition of animal characters alongside the human added an extra layer of enjoyment to my reading experience.
Many thanks for reading my review of The Mountains of Channadran by Susan Dexter. I'll be back on Friday. The comments section is open.
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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested in reading my review of magician by Raymond E Feist here. Or you might like to take a look at my review of The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan here.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of The Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene here.