Beyond The Hills by Maressa Mortimer, is the second in the Elabi Chronicles. Following on from the introduction to the civilisation of Elabi in Walled City, Mortimer further explores struggles over faith and acceptance through the protagonist, Macia.
Macia is a young, independent, and sometimes stubborn, woman who is trying to navigate a world where a close 'friend' has abandoned Elabi and its principles. This society discourages against emotional behaviour, ridicules those of lower status and forbids certain materials from being read, enjoyed and passed on. Macia is left a letter and some pages from a forbidden book by her disappearing friend and as readers, we follow her battle with the words of the book (the Bible). As she does so, she also stresses over the consequences for being caught for digesting and practicing such ideas.
I loved the way Mortimer deals with Macia's character development; she goes from quite an arrogant, self-centred person to having a heart for those less fortunate than herself. It is an encouraging aspect of Mortimer's writing; the way it shows God's word and a love for others transforming people for the better. There were moments in Macia's struggle that strongly resonated, particularly when she's overwhelmingly anxious and decides not to move away from hope. There's a lesson for everyone in that. One of my favourite moments in the novel is when Macia experiences a moment of joy paddle boarding. However, she cannot share the hilarity of it with her family over the dinner table, because of the banning of emotional reactions in this dystopian society. It struck me how important those small moments are in relationships and without them, things can feel pretty hollow.
While I would have perhaps wanted a bit more 'action', Mortimer's use of language is exquisitely descriptive and I did feel immersed in Macia's bizarre and fascinating world. Not only that, but the inclusion of scriptures in a very natural way, served as a reminder to me in my own life. If you enjoy getting right into a character's head and exploring questions of faith, then this series is for you. Gax (the protagonist in the first book, Walled City) is equally as intriguing.
I was given a free copy of Beyond the Hills. I was under no pressure or obligation to write a good review, these are my own feelings after reading it.