The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence (The Book of the Ice: Book 2)

I originally gave this five stars after the immediate post-book glow, but after sitting on it for a while, I'm bumping it down to four. The reading experience alone is fun and exciting and certainly a page turner, but I don't think it works quite as well as a book on its own. There is a big shift in the story at exactly the halfway point, and it really divides the whole trilogy in half -- it makes me think that this entire trilogy would work better as a duology. While there are great cliffhangers at the ends of books one and two, it still feels like a more natural ending would be if The Girl and the Ice were extended an extra 50%, and the The Girl and the Mountain should pick up there and run through the end of book three. While there was some good character development, exciting scenes and mysteries solved, the book didn't feel like it started and ended in the right spots and gave off a feeling of being carved out instead of existing on its own merits.

That being said, let's move onto the good stuff, and there's a lot of it! I jotted down some themed that popped up along the way:

- Choices matter, and Yaz learns the hard way
- Heavy lies the crown
- Pages and pages of putting you right there in the ice made me physically cold at times. Nicely done.
- Dogs are good, except when they are murder machines.
- Counterpoint: there are never enough murder machines.
- I finally learned how to pronounce Seus (it’s not SAY-us) at that's oddly pertinent.
- Smaller cast, bigger hearts, even bigger hurts. One thing Lawrence has improved on with each series is knowing how to rip your heart out.
- Trying to label this story (icepunk tech fantasy?) is like installing a Taproot flash drive: hard to pin down. Hey-o
- There’s a moment of beauty when a something clicks into place and it both opens and closes some wonderful doors. In my experience it’s a rare achievement, and it’s poignant, and just go read it already.
- Erris is Janet from The Good Place (not a robot).
- Fans of Mark’s previous books will especially love this one.
- Except for the stupid cliffhanger that’s so stupid and definitely not an incredibly frustrating tease to end a book AGAIN nope not at all.

Lawrence has been low-key building a universe where all of his books intertwine, from his 1980's set Impossible Times trilogy to the post-apocalyptic Broken Empire and Red Queen's War trilogies and now the two Abeth-set series. He claims to be winging it all with no set over-arching plan in mind. I call shenannigans. With each new series he pulls the net tighter, building upon each of his previous books, injecting them with more meaning and purpose. I'm confident that The Book of the Ice will fall into this category with whatever he has planned next. But in the meantime, if you like what Lawrence has produced so far - a mix of magic, science, brutal battles with nature, and eon-spanning mysteries -- then The Girl and the Mountain is just what the good Doctor Taproot ordered.

8/10 A mix of magic, science, brutal battles with nature, and eon-spanning mysteries

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