But For The Mountains
Author: Erin Riha Publisher: REUTS Publications Release Date: June 3rd 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy
Arden Thatcher wasn’t meant to be chosen.
But when her name is announced, she’s presented with something she never thought she’d have: a future away from her abuser. Shuttled off to attend the prestigious National Women’s Institute, Arden will receive Nordania’s highest honor, studying with other elite candidates to become leaders, diplomats, and ambassadors on the world stage.
Only, the institute’s not quite what she expected. Paraded around in gown after gown, the tests seem less about educating and more about a different competition, with a very specific prize at stake—the Nordanian Prime Minister’s son. Despite the dean’s protestations that angling for an engagement leads to expulsion, Arden sees the truth. There’s a secret bubbling beneath the institute’s refined surface, and those who refuse to play along may well wind up dead.
With the danger escalating, and the return of her abuser on the horizon, Arden’s shiny future becomes a gilded cage. And this time, she’s going to need powerful allies to escape.
Political intrigue, swoon-worthy romance, and a dash of dystopian flare, But for the Mountains begs the question, how do you change the world when you’re not allowed to try?
I received a free copy for an honest review.
When I first read the synopsis I immediately requested an ARC because it seemed amazing (there were so many of my favorite tropes in there) On the other hand, I was also skeptical due to my past experiences of being let down by the actual book after reading a great synopsis. So now let's break down why this book did not let me down (but also can work on).
To start off, if you even remotely read The Selection by Keira Cass you definitely would not be able to not think of it when you're reading this book.
As I was reading the book, the entire time I was brainstorming alternative titles for this book because I just kept thinking "THE SELECTION THE SELECTION THE SELECTION". In fact, over half of the book as I'm reading it, I was just brainstorming different possible alternative titles for this book:
The Selection: Debates
The Selection: MUN Spinoff
The Selection: The Academy
Now, why is this book so similar to The Selection? One of the biggest similarities was the setting. The concept of competing over Declan (the Prime Minister's son) is extremely similar to the girls competing over Maxon. To give you an example, the scenes in the beginning where they were getting "physically groomed" in preparations for their appearances, and how the girls would fight over chances to interact with him all reminded me of the selection over Maxon. Hell, even the scene where Arden refused to wear heavy makeup and ended up choosing a simple blue dress, making her stand out from all the girls, reminded me of America.
There's also a dystopian and fantastical vibe in the book's world-building that was similar to The Selection. The Selection was known to retain some fantasy (almost medieval) attributes (such as royalty) while taking place in a futuristic setting. Everything in this book gave me fantastical medieval vibes, but I also see ideological and technological advancements that gave me modern vibes as well.
The romance sadly, despite being the area I looked most forward to, was a bit underwhelming.
Now that's definitely a difference from The Selection. You can go after the logistics of The Selection's story, world-building, and even character portrayals, You can argue how it's problematic due to its questionable sexist nature of the setting along with all the bugs from its "political plotlines". You can poke fun at The Selection for calling the political and dystopian aspects "decorations" for the romance plot-line. But you cannot disagree that one of the reasons why that series was so popular was in the first place is because of how well Maxon and America were written together. From how they met to how their relationship developed, it was so ship-able that readers are willing to overlook all the flaws and loyalty enjoy this adorable couple throughout the entire series.
What does this have to do with But for the Mountains? Well, to start, as someone who definitely enjoyed The Selection, after noticing all the similarities, my expectations were rising the more I got into the book, anticipating their first meeting....
Unfortunately, this book had a bit of nasty surprise for me: Insta-love
It was...a moment that kind of took me out of the book. To say it nicely, it can be written better. To say it...not nicely, a great potentially powerful ship was sunk deep into The Atlantic Ocean before it shipped due to poor execution.
I'm...very disappointed. Seriously. You have the PERFECT setting, the PERFECT environment, the PERFECT circumstance, and...what you give me is that just for some reason, Declan "noticed" her and just for the rest of the book went all like:
He went straight into full-on "I'm-vunerable-you're-vunerable-too? Let's-get-married-because-I-like-you-and-I-don't-like-political-marriages" a quarter into the book. There was no intriguing first meeting? Fine. At least give us a decent, slow, development into their relationship as they get to know each other. We didn't even get that.
What ended up happening is the thing I was most looking forward to gave me the biggest disappointment, but was not enough to ruin the book for me entirely.
The story was interesting, it did indeed focus a lot fo world development and politics (as promised in the synopsis), so it's not all bad! But for people who don't enjoy insta-love, do lookout for that.
about the author
Erin Riha writes young adult fantasy novels about ambitious girls who don’t know they’re not supposed to exceed expectations. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science, a Law Degree, and a deep reverence for the power of using exactly the right word in exactly the right moment. She lives in wonderfully weird Portland, Oregon, with her super dreamy husband, where they’re raising a future train engineer and a future chicken whisperer. When not writing, she’s a music director for a teen theater company, traveling the world, or dreaming of traveling the world.
Her debut novel, BUT FOR THE MOUNTAINS, was published by REUTS Publications June 2, 2020.