Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus Review

Shadow on the Mountain recounts the adventures of a 14-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. After Nazi Germany invades and occupies Norway, Espen and his friends are swept up in the Norwegian resistance movement. Espen gets his start by delivering illegal newspapers, then graduates to the role of courier and finally becomes a spy, dodging the Gestapo along the way. During five years under the Nazi regime, he gains—and loses—friends, falls in love, and makes one small mistake that threatens to catch up with him as he sets out to escape on skis over the mountains to Sweden.

Shadow on the Mountain was a solid historical YA novel that shines due to its characters and interesting location, but hampered by the short book length and constant time jumps.

Espen was a protagonist that you really learn to cheer for. While I felt the time jumps hurt his character development, the daily interactions he has with his friends and members of the resistance were solid. The best parts of the books are when life is mundance for Espen. His conversations with his friends talking about the Nazi Regime and planning to do whatever they can to get them out were well done. Preus’  attention to detail for the culture and daily life during Norway at that time only serves to strengthen Espen as a character and really gets you to cheer for him more. While the supporting characters were not well developed besides a few, they still provided some depth and authenticity of the time period. Unfortunately, the weakest character in the book is the villain. I did enjoy reading from his view point, but he was predictable and had no character development at all. This weak villain results in a weak climax with an ending that also feels unsatisfying.

The plot itself was somewhat predictable, but the historical aspect of the novel did aid In keeping parts of the plot from feeling familiar. I do understand why Preus used time jumps as she wanted to depict the life of Espen during different times of World War II, but I felt the overall short book length hampered Espen’s character development. You don’t really see his maturity and progression as much as I hoped.  I felt that the best part of the novel is the authenticity of Norway. Preus did a phenomenal job of depicting the daily lives of those who lived there during that time period even including photos of the person Espen is based off of and documents during that time which I really enjoyed (I love it when author’s do these little things in order to immerse the reader). The ending of the novel felt unsatisfying to me and abrupt, but it did not sour my experience as a whole.

For someone who is a not a big fan of historical novels, Shadow on the Mountain was a good novel with a good main character and an even better, realistic world that the characters inhabit.

Rating:  Must Buy on sale

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