The Dark Hills Divide

The Dark Hills DivideBy Patrick Carman [LibraryThingAmazon]

As every summer, Alexa Daley is staying in Bridewell with her father while he conducts important political business. But she has decided that this summer will be different: Alexa is bound and determined to find a way outside of the wall that protects the civilized cities from the outside world. And when she does so, she develops the magical ability to speak to animals—and discovers a conspiracy that might just doom the world as she knows it.

This book left nearly no impression on me. I read it a couple of months ago and forgot about it entirely until I just glanced at my booklist, and realized that a) I never reviewed it, and b) I can’t actually find my copy of it. But here goes what little I remember.

The world building of the book is a little strange. World building seems to be a favorite thing of writer Patrick Carman, as Jess noted it was a major part of Atherton: The House of Power (another Carman work) when she reviewed it. But I actually found the world building a bit confusing: first, it was just hard to figure out how the cities were connected and the odd way the wall worked (four cities, with one in the middle and the others connected to it like spokes on a wagon wheel, with a wall running around each city and the roads that connect the cities together, so no one from the cities can ever leave—yes, it is confusing).

After that, it seemed like the walls were very old and no one had ever been beyond them, except that the guy who built them was still around, if old, until the beginning of the story. Apparently, the walls were built to keep out some mysterious evil thing, but what it was or why people should worry about it is barely even hinted at or mentioned. Alexa certainly doesn’t discover it or worry about it too much. It reads very much like Alexa’s big destiny will be as the person who brings the walls down, but without knowing why they were built in the first place, it doesn’t seem like that matters much.

And finally, the whole world seems very small, and there are some references to actual Earth mythology, so it feels like another Atherton-esque “built world.” There are references to Alexa needing to discover why the world was created. But none of that—and no reason why it’s important, or hint of how or why it happened—is given in the book. I’m all for building things up in the series, but the first book was a stand-alone without a greater context given. Hinting at it seems bizarre, when the hints aren’t big enough to have an impact on the story itself. Basically, I feel like either the world itself needed to be more dramatic and mysterious, or a lot less confusing; instead, it’s at a middle ground that leaves me going, “…Huh?”

That was my main impression of the book, several months later. The only other thing that stands out was the character of Pervis Kotcher, who I thought was interesting. He was Alexa’s antagonist, the head guard of Bridewell, who was trying to stop her from sneaking out. A generally rotten guy, he was set up as a villain—but in the end was only antagonizing Alexa, but mostly interested in doing his job. While not the most morally complex character in the world, I appreciated the realness of having a character who the protagonist dislikes (and for valid reason), but who isn’t actually bad or a villain. After all, not all good guys have get along, and not all protagonists have to be nice.

Some of my lack of interest in the book was doubtlessly personal preference. I’m not all that into talking animals—I can handle them in small doses, but the story of a girl who can converse with wild creatures doesn’t interest me too much. So anyway, I give the book two and a half cupcakes, as I don’t remember anything great about it, but aside from being confused by the world, I don’t remember anything bad, either. It wasn’t interesting enough for me to want the sequel, so there you go.


    One Response to “The Dark Hills Divide”

    1. Hannah says:

      I understand what you mean about the book being forgetable. I read the whole series thinking that i might like the other ones but I didn’t. =( To tell you the truth, I nearly fell asleep reading these books but that’s just my opinion!

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