Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review: Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon  by Mark Hodder.
This third book of the Burton and Swinburne series is a return to form after a disappointing second novel. The plot is much clearer and less cluttered than the second one, even though it shifts around in time without explaining itself. This book is set simultaneously in Africa in 1863 and in Africa in 1914 during a hellish alternate WWI. 

Time travel is handled excellently, and this series is such a must for time travel fans. I couldn't tell you if all the time travel paradoxes make sense, because they are so very difficult to follow, but it doesn't matter to me. The book does an excellent job of blending technology with the supernatural in such a way that it's difficult to tell the difference between the two. 

The only criticism I can give this novel is that in parts it moves very slowly, as long portions recount people walking through Africa. It was a book that took me a while to get through because I kept putting it down and reading or doing something else. It wasn't because I wasn't enjoying it, but I felt I needed breaks from it at times. But ultimately, all that journeying contributes to feeling empathy of what the characters have been through by the end.

I'm not sure if this is a conclusion to the series or not, as it could go either way. All I can say is that the ending does not disappoint.

Oh, one final thought. I expressed a wish in my review of the first novel to have female characters take a larger role. I was somewhat given what I wanted when Burton's fiance led a group of oppressed Arabic women as an army of mounted guerrilla fighters. However, it continually bothered me that these women were killed off by the ten and twenty without so much as an eyeblink, but when one of the male characters of the group died, it was a major tragedy with tears and funerals. Same with the African porters. I appreciate that these attitudes are probably historically accurate, but if you're going to create an army of female warriors to do all the fighting for the men, you could go all the way and give them names and make them more than cannon fodder.

But ultimately this third part cements the series among the must-read steampunk books, in my opinion.   

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