SPFBO: Hound of the Mountain by Stephan Morse

Series: Lawless Ink #1 Rating: 4.8/10
Date of Publishing: May 28 2019 Genre: weird west/fantasy
Publisher: self-published Number of Pages: 421

Quote of the Book

“The glove went down on the ground, and I grabbed the next large creature. Its gouged-out eye sockets gazed in my direction. Their black depths mocked me as pulses of red illumination bounced into the holes. I imagined, feverish as I were after working so many days, that a malevolent pulse of red echoed back.”

 

Blurb

The weight of the world shouldn’t rest on a 17-year-old’s shoulders, but that’s what it feels like for Chase Craig. With his daddy’s last breath, he was given a goal: save Momma from The Mountain.

Escaping this monstrous shadow will take money, lots of it, and Chase’s best option is to join The Rangers—an elite group who hunt dangerous ink-touched beasts that spawn from The Mountain’s depths. Only one person will be chosen out of the several dozen who apply, and if he doesn’t get a magic tattoo before the Trials, he’ll be out of the running.

SPFBO Note

Please keep in mind these are personal thoughts only. This book has already been eliminated from the competition, but at least one of us liked it enough to write a full review. You can follow our progress on our SPFBO page.

Song of the Book

I’ve used this song before but it fits so well here because everytime the Delvers sing their song, I thought of this one.

Way Down We Go by Kaleo

Jen’s Review – 6.8/10

Chase promised his daddy he’d take his momma away from the Mountain. To do that he sets his goal on being a Ranger and earning enough money to move her far away from there.

***

This was one of the more unusual books I’ve read for SPFBO. I have to admit the POV/western combo took me while to get used to but once I settled in, I was very curious- especially about the Ink.

The coloured ink mining, inked creatures and the opening scenes in the mine and how it all worked felt very unique to anything I had read lately. It was very cool and weird, and I was intrigued.

The story follows Chase a young man who hasn’t had an easy time since his dad died. He is a selective mute but we are in his headspace so we still get to learn a lot about him and the town through him (and other chatty people). He works at the Well Took mine (called The Mountain by the locals) doing increasingly harder jobs trying to keep his head of the bills and save enough to honor his promise to his dad.

They mine coloured Ink at the Mountain. It’s a dangerous place full of re-spawned monsters and other creatures that are attracted to the ink, which has sort of magical properties and is quite hazardous if you get it on your skin or even have too much exposure over time, which can cause your body to change into other creatures. Like flops, felines, and delvers and those are the nice ones that overexposure to the ink, didn’t turn into killers but kind of hybrid townsfolk.  The full moon brings the nasty ones up from the depths below the mountain and the Rangers are there to help protect the town and miners from them.

The rangers get magical tattoos out of the ink, giving them an edge over the monsters and almost a type of super power – depending on the tattoos and the colours they are done in. I thought this was one of the neatest combos of magic/tattoos I’ve read (not that I have read a lot of either type) and it took me most of the book to really understand how some of the magic works, because we are kind of learning as Chase is learning. There is still a bit of mystery about the correlation between ink and monsters and the mountain, giving lots of room to expand on it later in other books.

There is a collection of characters – it’s small community, everybody knows everyone else’s business especially a couple characters that we can classify as busybodies (Chase’s mom included) and a few that are a little uneducated and close-minded. There are mentions of war with the Saracons across the Mountain but this does have a closed world feel. I felt that was appropriate though for the type of story and especially the character we are following.

There were a few places where I felt the story kind of wandered maybe not too far off-track but it did take it’s time to get where it was going. Places where we are being introduced to acquaintances and so forth and especially near the end where the prolonged Ranger trials and aftermath became almost frustrating for me because of my impatience to get answers to things that had been building and hinted to over the story. And maybe I was a bit worried too, that we weren’t going to get those answers but I did appreciate touching base and letting us see how everyone fared while tying up all the loose ends- it just seemed a little drawn out at times.

This felt like a whole new side to the weird west genre. Very cool, very different story- worth checking out for the ink magic and if you like the western style genre of fantasy.

 

Nick’s Review – 5.5/10

Chase Craig is a teenager who has been given a gigantic task by his father on his deathbed.  He’s been told that his mother is trapped at the top of a nearby mountain and he must save her if she still lives.  The problem with this task is that it isn’t going to be very easy considering that there are hideous beasts who reside amongst the crags and peaks of said mountain.

Not only that, but to even attempt to undertake this mission alone would be sure and certain suicide.  Chase’s only option in his mind is to join THE RANGERS, an elite squad who are trained in hunting and killing the mythical beasts that inhabit the mountain.  Adding to the daunting task of becoming a ranger is the fact that only one person among the many who apply actually get the chance to become a Ranger.

To become part of this special unit, Chase must go through a series of gruelling trials aimed at singling out only the best of the best for selection.  The reward for passing is a magic tattoo that will endow the new Ranger with certain powers.  Powers that Chase hopes will propel him to finding his mother and bringing her down from the mountain safe and unharmed.  But will he be able to pass the test?  Or will he have to journey alone into the perilous mountain facing danger without the backing of the much vaunted Rangers?

HOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN was a book that I felt had a lot of unrealized potential.  The story was very original and I thought the concept of a magic system based on tattoos is a cool idea.  While this was a fun fantasy tale in general with a western-style theme, where it lost me was in both the juvenile tone of the main character and also the long time period that takes place before any real action happens.

Part of this was the fact that the Ranger trials were so detailed and lengthy in description.  What I kept wanting to get to was Chase’s journey into the mountain, but it felt like that took forever to happen.  Ultimately this is where I grew a bit impatient and I thought that the book dragged for a significant amount of time.

Getting back to Chase as a main character, I just couldn’t get invested in his story.  There were times when he just seemed like a spoiled brat and I didn’t connect with him in any way.  Likewise the story of the Rangers didn’t grab me either and all in all although this is a light fantasy read with some good moments, as a whole this book was just okay for me.

 

Timy’s Review – 5/10

I honestly don’t know where to put this book. I expected to like it because the blurb and the premise sounded really cool and I’m a sucker for stories where tattoos play an important part in the character’s life. Also because it sounded similar to R. S. Belcher‘s Golgotha series. There were ideas I liked in this book – the ink mining, that every color had a different power/meaning though up the 25% we only get hints at this and not much explanation how actually tattoos and ink work, and why they are important in this culture. We can guess though, and I expect that once our MC gets closer to getting one on his own, we’ll get more answers. I kind of liked Chase, he was hard working, determined but a bit too passive I think, for my liking.

 

Belle’s Review – 2/10

This book has a lot of potential. I really enjoyed the tattoo-based magic system, I thought it was an interesting approach. The beginning dragged quite a bit for me, I would have enjoyed it more if it was condensed just a bit. I also didn’t feel particularly invested in the characters or the plot, which made it difficult for me to stick with it.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble Author website: frustratedego.com

5 thoughts on “SPFBO: Hound of the Mountain by Stephan Morse

Add yours

  1. I was curious about this one. Fantasy westerns are a concept that always intrigues me and yet I haven’t found many that really capture me.

    The ink mining sounds fascinating, and I wonder whether the juvenile tone a few of you mentioned might mean it reads more YA? I’m fine with YA so that might be interesting.

    The only other story I’ve read with a mute protagonist was The Vagrant by Peter Newman (one of my absolute favourite novels) and it made for interesting characterisation and conflict resolution, so I wonder if that’s the case in this one as well.

    Like

    1. This was a really different story and yeah i’d say more ya or maybe na because it also has some adult themes.
      Just to warn you there is some references to one of the characters being forcefully altered by the ink (which there are quite a few hybrid type characters) and taking on animal characteristics (in this case a bunny) and used sexually. It’s not on screen or graphic but if your sensitive to that sort of thing you might want a heads up. I almost put a warning but it’s never shown and is mostly hinted at and later confirmed.

      Ooh I haven’t read the Vagrant it was on my list! I’ve read a few mute mc’s this was one of the better ones. He gets his point across and because we follow him we are never guessing. He later has to speak more often(he’s selective mute) but it never feels like the character abandons his mutism either.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Okay that’s a good warning and good to know. Usually if it’s not explicit I can handle it but I still like to be warned.

        The Vagrant is *wonderful*. A world that looks grimdark in that evil has already won, and yet kindness can still change people.

        And most importantly, a mute man travels across the apoclayptic wastelands with only a baby and a goat.

        Fair warning the prologue is so dense I almost couldn’t get through it, but once you get to the main character it’s well worth it and very comfortable reading.

        Like

      2. The Vagrant sound really interesting. I can do grimdark with kindness. Is the Mute not the main character? I just always assumed he would be.

        Like

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