Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Black Mountain by Kate Mosse, one of the 2022 Quick Reads titles from The Reading Agency. It’s my first read from this author, but a great place to start with a novella full of tension, atmosphere and great characterisation, ideal for regular readers and new readers alike.
About the Book
The Black Mountain is a Quick Read short story from bestselling author Kate Mosse.
It is May, 1706. Ana, a young Spanish woman, lives in a small town on the north-west coast of Tenerife with her mother and twin younger brothers. The town is in the shadow of a mighty volcano, which legend says has the devil living inside it. However, there has been no eruption for thousands of years and no one believes it is a threat.
One day, Ana notices that the air feels strange and heavy, that the birds have stopped singing. Tending the family vineyard, a sudden strange tremor in the earth frightens her. Very soon it will be a race against time for Ana to help persuade the town that they are in danger and should flee before the volcano erupts and destroys their world. Will they listen? And Ana herself faces another danger . . .
The Black MOuntain may be a short read, only 136 pages long, but it certainly packs a punch, filled to the brim with tension and atmosphere and a real feeling of authenticity. That may, in part, come from the fact that the story is pulled direct from the pages of history, and because much of what unfolds throughout the pages of the book is based in fact and not necessarily fiction. This is the story of Ana, a young woman who lives with her family in the port town of Garachico in the shadows of Trevejo, a dormant volcano known locally as The Black Mountain. We join Ana just after she has suffered a significant personal loss, little knowing how much more her life, and that of the whole town, is about to change. The Black Mountain has been dormant for many years, but no longer … if only the rest of the town would listen.
This was a fascinating story that captured my attention from the start. There is a mystery at the heart of the story, one which links into Ana’s tragedy but in a way we cannot possibly understand. Added to this a a real underlying tension, one that you can feel building with every page turn and every slight shift in the weather and skies around the Black Mountain. It feels like tragedy is being foretold through the changes in the volcano’s standing, and the atmospheric changes that Ana and a just few of her fellow townsfolk can understand. It is that ever present sense of threat that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but also the feeling of corruption at the heart of this most important of ports.
Kate Mosse has done a brilliant job of developing the characters and the tension, and in creating such an overwhelming sense of time and space that I could easily feel as though I was present in Garachico in those fateful days. Although historical fiction, the book is totally accessible, no matter what your level of literacy, exactly as the series is intended. In Ana I found a tenacious and brave young woman who stood up for all that she believed in and I was invested in her, her family and her friends right from the start. I cared what happened to her, was incensed by the injustices she suffered and absolutely rooting for her to overcome all obstacles set in front of her. And when you are facing the wrath of not just the town, but a force as powerful as The Black Mountain, that is one heck of a hurdle to overcome.
Whilst I’ve no doubt that elements of this story are totally fictitious, it is entirely plausible, and drawing upon events from real life, the actual eruption of Trevejo and the devastation ir reeked upon Garachico, it made me want to read more on the subject. I love it when books do that – intrigue me so much I have to find the truth in all the fiction.
A real treat for fans of historical fiction and a brilliant introduction to this author for me. Definitely recommended.
About the Author
Kate Mosse is an award-winning novelist, playwright, essayist and non-fiction writer, the author of nine novels and short-story collections, including the multimillion-selling Languedoc Trilogy, The Burning Chambers Series and number one bestselling Gothic fiction The Winter Ghosts and The Taxidermist’s Daughter. Her books have been translated into thirty-seven languages and published in more than forty countries. The Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, she is the Founder of the global Woman In History campaign. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Kate is a Visiting Professor of Contemporary Fiction and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester.
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