The Hanging Mountains by Sean Williams

Published by Pyr
ISBN 978-1-59102-544-3
July 2007
474 Pages


Sean Williams’ Books of the Cataclysm series continues to roll in the third installment, The Hanging Mountains. Here, Williams brings the unique elements he presented in the two previous volumes together into the greater cohesive gestalt of the over-reaching saga, providing for multiple plot threads. This third book in the saga, more so than the second, relies a great deal on the foundations Williams laid in the previous volumes.  This does not make The Hanging Mountains into merely a place-holder, thankfully. Strange new creatures and societies are introduced, as are the environs in which they inhabit.


A nice prologue brings readers back to the twins, Seth and Hadrain, who now share a singular body (the Homunculus) as a result of the journey and sacrifice at the end of the first volume, The Crooked Letter. Once the prologue closes and the novel properly begins, Williams immediately thrusts the reader into a frantic sea battle. The travelers who left the earlier novel sailing across the sea (Skender, Chu, Marimon, Sal, and Kemp) encounter a Sea Serpent in the opening pages of the novel.  The scene comes across as very frantic and the result lays the seeds for the remainder of the novel.


One of the major plot points entails Chu and Skender traveling across the flooded Divide to discover if it can be repaired.  Unfortunately, their quest, as it were, is not so easy.  When they arrive at the forested land, Skender and Chu encounter the Panic, a feared race native to the Green who is initially unwilling to help.  Only when the Panic’s enemies, the Milang, appear does Skender’s band of travelers hope to continue on towards the Hanging Mountains in search of a respite from the Flood.  Through these scenes, Williams effectively presents a world in chaos and disorder, giving the characters few chances to truly catch their breaths.


While this is going on, the Homunculus and the tracker Habryn Kail are on a journey of their own.  This plot thread connects back to the first volume, as the Twins are on the run from Upuaat, their enemy, also known as the Wolf and in search of a way to halt yet another cataclysmic transformation of the world.  Through most of the previous volume, The Blood Debt, the Homunculus was thought by the majority of the characters to be the great enemy of the land.  Somewhat rightfully so since very little about the creature’s origins were known, other than its great age as a remnant from the Old World. This second plotline works more to keep the plot of the series focused and serves as a reminder of what came before and how to prevent bad things from happening again.


This isn’t to say that the plotline with Skender and Marimon isn’t important, though it may seem so on the surface.  Through their journey, we get to see more of the fantastical elements of the transformed earth, such as airships and floating cities, as well as non-human intelligent species like the Panic.  This storyline hints at possibilities for the final volume, as well. The Homunculus plotline contrast nicely with the Skender plotline to show what is in the world, what was in the world and perhaps a foreshadowing of what may come in the world.


Although I enjoyed The Hanging Mountains a great deal, I still think it was a slight step down from the previous two volumes.  Despite that, the overall storyline isn’t losing any steam and the tension that comes off the pages during any scene with the Twins is building to great effect.  One of the aspects of this series that I enjoy the most is how Sean Williams continues to evolve the landscape of our world.  From the titular hanging mountains, to the sea serpents, to the sky wardens, to the strange races, part of what makes this series such a fun ride is knowing, at one point, the world the characters inhabit was our own.  Williams is continuing to develop the characters, the transformed earth, and the plotline in equal amounts, culminating in an ultimately delectable stew. The end of the novel served as a great appetizer for what may come in the final volume, The Devoured Earth.


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© 2007 Rob H. Bedford


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