The House of Mountfathom by Nigel McDowell
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.
Luke Mountfathom knows he is special and odd. He is told so by everyone he knows. His parents are special and odd too – they are the keepers of the House of Mountfathom, a magnificent stately home where the wrong door could take you to a far away land, and strange animals appear to stalk the grounds at midnight. The house is his home – but it is also the headquarters of the Driochta, a magic-weaving group of poets, artists, politicians and activists charged with keeping the peace in Ireland. They have many powers – have mastered Mirror-Predicting and Smoke-Summoning and Storm-Breaching – and a final ability: that of Mogrifying; taking on a unique animal form.
But Luke’s idyllic existence at Mountfathom cannot last. Word reaches the House of protests across Ireland. There is a wish for independence, a rising discontent and scenes of violence that even the Driochta cannot control. In Dublin, death and disease is running rife in the tenements; a darkness is clogging the air, and is intent on staying. And when things quickly spin out of control for the Driochta, it is up to Luke, his cat Morrigan and his best friend Killian to worm out the heart of the evil in their land.*
I loved the look of this book right away. A stunning, slightly creepy Gothic cover will pull me in right away. The back copy sounded promising. So what went wrong with The House of Mountfathom?
I think my main issue lies with the language and sentence structure. This is an unusual complaint from me, as I tend not to focus on a writer’s stylistic choices. But the language the author uses, which is intentionally archaic and grand, just doesn’t work. It attempts to be rhythmic and almost song-like, particularly in the beginning, but something about it just falls flat. It might be that the promising plot turned out to be, for lack of a better word, boring and the language helped drag it down. It certainly didn’t do the book any favors. But even more strange was the sentence structure. McDowell uses a lot of fragments. This would be alright if this technique were used on occasion and for dramatic effect, but it felt like every other sentence. It was so jarring and threw me right out of the story; I felt like I was skipping over words and would stop, reread the sentence, and find that this wasn’t the case. Reading this book was like driving down a bumpy road.
I can’t say much for the characters or plot because even after reaching nearly 100 pages, so little happened that I genuinely have nothing to say. I can’t imagine how it would capture a child’s imagination.
I felt so guilty setting this book aside unfinished, but I found that I was actually avoiding reading it. I pushed through as far as I could, but was disappointed by what should have been a fantastic novel. I hate to assign a rating to a book I didn’t finish, but I’ll do my best. Ultimately, The House of Mountfathom had great potential but was poorly executed.
*copy courtesy of Goodreads
Have you read The House at Mountfathom? Did you enjoy it? Let me know!