Nigel McDowell: The House of Mountfathom


I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest 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.

The House of Mountfathom is a young adult, fantasy novel that brings together Irish politics with the likes of spells and animal transformations. Luke Mountfathom must learn everything that he can about magic and the various types, as well as learning about the house he lives in. But, at a time when there is unrest, the Driochta – the group of magic-wielders that he will soon become a part of – must make the decision on whether they will fight with or against the Irish rebels.

This novel really shouted out to me: magic and Mogrifying into animal forms – right up my alley. But, what I didn’t anticipate was the writing style and how Nigel McDowell puts this novel across. From the moment I opened this book, I knew I was going to have issues. The House of Mountfathom is written in a way where sentences aren’t whole with words missing so that, though it is a coherent sentence, you know it is missing the odd ‘the’ or some-such. It’s a bit disconcerting and, though you can easily understand the novel regardless of this, it really put me off. Maybe it’s the literature student in me? Over time, I was able to all but phase this out until about a quarter of the way into the book when I was all but put out.

I frequently found myself confused as to the events taking place. I would be reading along understanding everything going on between the characters and the events taking place and then, as soon as it hit a scene that was outside the confines of the Mountfathom House, I found myself disconcerted. I couldn’t follow the events taking place. I was presented with characters that seemingly had appeared out of nowhere and the narrative jumped back and forth between two places which, I am assuming, were different areas of the same place but from different perspectives. From this moment on I just couldn’t keep my mind focused on the novel and found it had trouble keeping my attention focused on what was written before me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I got the general gist of the events taking place and did enjoy aspects of the novel (such as the magic and the quirkiness of the characters), but it just wasn’t something that, if I hadn’t requested a copy to review, I would have gone back to again. I was so close to DNF-ing this book because it bore me in some parts and I was more interested in reading a book that I knew would hold my attention. That’s not to say that someone else won’t enjoy this book but, with the mixture of writing style and the confusion of events as I read through it, it just wasn’t for me.

I did however enjoy the characters, as I have mentioned. Lord and Lady Mountfathom both had their quirks which I found drew me to them as characters. They were flamboyant in their clothing and the way that they interacted, as if they were actual magicians putting on a show as opposed to magic-wielders. On the other hand, Luke seemed almost gloomy and brooding compared to these two, eager to learn what he could not ultimately control yet and impatient to help his family out in the Irish rebellion. The characters themselves were definitely one of the more likable aspects of the novel for me and I continued more to find out what would happen to them.

Overall, I felt a bit let down and unfulfilled by the time I had finished this novel. The ending seemed a bit dull and didn’t leave me feeling like the narrative had been resolved. I felt like the characters had been cut by the end, we don’t get any true understanding of what happens to most of the characters after these events and I felt a bit cut off from them.


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