Book Review: The High Mountain Court by A.K. Mulford
This book review of The High Mountain Court is one I will not share on social media. Unfortunately, this wasn’t for me at all. As much as I enjoy A.K. Mulford’s personality, content, and positivity, she’s not an author whose writing fits my taste for several reasons. Either way, if you feel like trying it, you’ll find The High Mountain Court on Amazon.
Note: The High Mountain Court is the first book in a series, but you can read it as a standalone. I will not be continuing with this series.
(Review contains spoilers.)
Summary: After years spent hiding, Remy, a Red witch, must help Hale, a fae prince. The goal is to unlock the artefacts that could take down the King of the Northern Court. While everyone around Remy tells her not to trust the fae prince, Remy feels drawn to him. However, she cannot let many people know she’s a Red witch, as there’s a bounty on every Red witch’s head. Can she trust Hale with that knowledge? And can she free the High Mountain Court before the Northern Court slaughters the continent?
Genre: High Fantasy, Romance
Audience: YA (marketed as NA)
Themes/potential trigger warnings: bloodshed, sex scenes
I would like to thank A.K. Mulford for sharing an ARC with me. Below, the breakdown of the rating I gave The High Mountain Court.
- World-building: 1★
- Characters (cast & development): 0★
- Plot (pacing, stakes, and execution): 0.5★
- Themes: 0.5★
- Prose: 0★
Final rating: 2★
Let’s start this book review of The High Mountain Court with what I enjoyed. The world-building was probably the strongest aspect of this book. Although it’s nowhere near new, from the map to the descriptions, the author took the time to explain every part of her world. The covens were interesting, and I enjoyed the fact that each coven specializes in a certain type of magic that isn’t always meant for offensive moves. Another thing I appreciated was that the world-building happened mostly through traveling.
A pet peeve of mine would be that every explanation happened through Remy, and I couldn’t help but think: how can a girl who’s been hiding all her life, received little to no education, know everything? Other than that, Okrith is shaping up nicely. I can see it as a satisfying universe for a high fantasy story, with its own rituals, social hierarchy, religion, and military.
My first issue with this book is the POV. We see everything through Remy’s eyes. I’m not a big fan of this type of storytelling, especially for books marketed towards a more mature audience. It truly narrows the interpretation a reader can come up with for key elements of the story. Anyway, Remy, as a character, was promising at the beginning. She seems far from naïve and works at a tavern while hiding her witch powers. She recognizes faes and potential threats, takes a lot of initiative when she must save herself and those around her. I thought I would like her.
However, as the story progresses, you can tell Remy is a pretty overpowered character, with a good layer of plot armor, and she’s a bit of a drama queen. It made no sense to me why she would use her magic to send a pine tree in someone’s face using telekinesis. In fact, she could have used that power to send that someone miles away from her. It also amazed me she could summon such power when she’s clearly been hiding for years. She doesn’t even seem to practice her “Red magic” very often. Remy didn’t even have a mentor in that regard. Her guardian, Heather, is a Brown witch who doesn’t possess the same type of magic as Remy.
The main character often finds herself in situations where survival is unlikely, but she makes it out alive every time… Even when she says that her power is really low at that moment and that she feels weak. Upon meeting the male protagonist and his posse, Remy ends up going through the mandatory physical training of every YA fantasy. Daggers, swords, bows, whatever-you-can-name, and that was disappointing to me. I thought the book was about witches and magic, not sword-fighting faes.
I don’t have a lot to say about Hale, considering he is the conveniently good-looking and good-natured fae male who gets described as stunning when he’s just breathing. He suffers from overly written gray eyes; it’s the only feature I could remember throughout the book. Whenever he appears, it’s to save Remy from someone who has a blade ready to cut off her head or something. People call him the “Bastard Prince” for being born out of wedlock, and he has a poor reputation for chasing females, but he’s just a love-struck puppy with a one-dimensional personality. He didn’t annoy me, per se, but I couldn’t find him particularly appealing.
In the end, the main characters were extremely hard to relate to. I could not imagine them as real people, even in their universe.
The first ten chapters of this book had too much “showing.” We literally follow Remy through every part of her traveling, and I felt like the author could have chopped parts so that more interesting aspects of the plot would receive proper development. There is not a lot of bonding going on either. Remy sticks with the two Brown witches who raised her, and the few times the male protagonist asks her legit questions, she storms off as if someone insulted her mother. It didn’t appear as romantic banter to me, and it just seemed like a convenient moment to force the two protagonists to talk in private.
The mid-part of the story is about a small heist the characters organize in order to retrieve a potent artefact that the High Lords and Ladies placed as card game prize. It’s a little odd to me, but thankfully, the others discover the heist fairly easily and it forces the characters to run to their next destination. There’s a lot of traveling in this book, and it’s heavy as the novel isn’t even that long. The protagonists must cross this impossible mountain to retrieve the second magical item they need to overthrow the big evil, and they take days to get there, and only a couple of paragraphs to get out when Remy gets hurt.
The last third of the book is action-packed, with a lot of conflict that needs resolution, but it feels crammed. Dead characters that are actually alive and then truly die, characters who were on their own way end up coming back, underdeveloped characters being those who die bringing zero pathos to the table… Again, this felt very YA-ish and frankly, for a main character, I found Remy to have done little to nothing in the end. For me, it was anticlimactic, and I couldn’t root for the side characters who did the job because prior to that ending, they hadn’t been present in a lot of core scenes.
The High Mountain Court is not the first fantasy romance I’ve read. But the romance in this book was truly hard to digest. Remy was slobbering all over Hale since the first chapter. She quickly felt jealous of whoever approached him, although she wasn’t making any effort to get close to him at first. It was immature, and had it been just immaturity, I wouldn’t even mention it, but it turns out they’re FATED MATES. Like, strip me of my free will and just let me get the insta-love for someone I just met. That ruined the romance part for me. They want to slap monkeys so badly over nothing that I couldn’t. “My fated.” I think I died inside every time I read that line. If you’re not into corny stuff, this book’s going to hurt you.
But the romance isn’t what irritated me the most.
The diversity & LGBT+ representation
I don’t normally look for diversity elements in books that don’t get marketed as diverse, but this book has it in its description, so I read it carefully. The High Mountain Court made me uncomfortable several times. First, Remy is a black woman, that much is clear. At some point she says something about her complexion making her bruises less obvious, but it’s not like she hit her arm. They assaulted her, pressed a boot to her face and whatnot. It was really weird to read.
Then, I must point out that every LGBT+ character is a side or insignificant character. I never got the impression that Remy or Hale were bisexual or pansexual or anything. The fae warriors escorting Hale have made comments about their sexual preferences. I guess some of them are at the very least bisexual, but that’s about it. There was also a highborn character described as androgynous, and they clearly were non-binary. However, they appeared once, and that was it. It all felt politically correct, and I don’t think it’s that appropriate to market a book as LGBT+ when none of the main characters is part of that community.
On a side note, Remy’s brother, who was “fated” to a man, popped up and died in an evening. What was the point of his character and his same-sex fated mate subplot? I don’t want to say “bury your gays” because I doubt this was intentional. But since the next books aren’t focusing on the same characters, I don’t get it.
Speaking of diversity, we also have a character, Bria’s sister, who is half-fae/half-human, and I thought that was interesting… But she as well got a mention in a chapter, and then vanished from the rest of the story. It felt like another wasted opportunity.
Ultimately, this book has too many sprinkles of everything, and sometimes it’s best to just focus properly on a few aspects instead of stuffing the same book with everything.
Writing suitable for young audiences
For reasons mentioned in the previous sections of this book review of The High Mountain Court, I don’t think this book is NA in terms of writing or themes.
I don’t think a little gore and a low level of “spice” are what makes a book a New Adult novel instead of YA. New Adult books should begin blurring the lines between good and evil in terms of morals. In the text, you never get the impression that the characters walk that line. They’re all standard main characters trying to save their world from an “enormous” threat, and no side plot implies that there could be more to it. This is also probably why it took me well over a month to finish this book, although I started reading it way before its release date.
Too many references to other books
Lines like, “He was the most stunning male Remy had ever seen.“ Moments such as when Remy almost dies but remains alive through her connection to Hale. The big terrible king being a one-dimensional villain who dies at the hands of Remy’s sour-faced sister. The brother who had one scene dying to save his family. Heather sacrificing her life to save Remy… It really felt like an ACOTAR rip-off. Remember the Feysand dynamic? Hybern’s death at the hands of Elain? Feyre’s meaningless father dying for drama points? Nesta giving up her magic to save Feyre?
But this book also features things found in the Blood and Ash series since Hale refers to Remy as “Princess” like Casteel does with Poppy. He gives her a hand job in the middle of camping. He turns out to be the one ready to betray her and then not. The whole “from Red witch to Fae Princess of the High Mountain Court” trope that was exactly like Poppy’s ties to the Atlantian Crown/God heritage. Every crucial moment was so similar to those other popular books that saying, “The High Mountain Court is perfect for fans of Armentrout and ACOTAR,” gets a whole new meaning.
Even the part where Remy and Hale retrieve the second artefact reminded me a lot of Harry Potter. I will not judge someone for drawing inspiration from popular books, but when the scenes are too similar, the hype dies for me.
There was also a scene at the end that some people compared to GRRM’s Red Wedding. I want to shake my head. The Red Wedding was a scene meant to highlight how foolishness can lead main characters to a premature end. Here, the main characters came out unscathed. The enemy’s forces didn’t get massacred to the point of ending their power. In fact, the Northern King’s son must stay around to make sure there is no further uprising, which is a big contrast to what happened to House Stark after the Red Wedding (they basically ceased to exist as a military and political force).
To conclude this book review of The High Mountain Court, I would say this novel fits the write-to-market philosophy. It comes with a check-list of things people enjoy or look for in other popular books. But I can see hints of the author’s voice, and I’m sure when she polishes it, she will write terrific books. I hope she focuses more on her witch covens in the future, as that was the strongest aspect of the book.