Thursday, May 06, 2021

Book Review: But for the Mountains by Erin Riha

Title: But for the Mountains
Series: -
Author: Erin Riha
Publisher: REUTS Publications
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
Format: Kindle Edition
Publication Date: June 2nd 2020
Pages: 346

Synopsis (Goodreads): Arden Thatcher wasn’t meant to be chosen.

But when her name is announced, she’s presented with something she never thought she’d have: a future away from her abuser. Shuttled off to attend the prestigious National Women’s Institute, Arden will receive Nordania’s highest honor, studying with other elite candidates to become leaders, diplomats, and ambassadors on the world stage.

Only, the institute’s not quite what she expected. Paraded around in gown after gown, the tests seem less about educating and more about a different competition, with a very specific prize at stake—the Nordanian Prime Minister’s son. Despite the dean’s protestations that angling for an engagement leads to expulsion, Arden sees the truth. There’s a secret bubbling beneath the institute’s refined surface, and those who refuse to play along may well wind up dead.

With the danger escalating, and the return of her abuser on the horizon, Arden’s shiny future becomes a gilded cage. And this time, she’s going to need powerful allies to escape.

Political intrigue, swoon-worthy romance, and a dash of dystopian flare, But for the Mountains begs the question, how do you change the world when you’re not allowed to try?


My rating: 4 / 5 ★

Trigger Warning: Rape and sexual assault/abuse, violence, physical abuse, mentions of suicide and self-harm, PTSD/panic attacks, alcoholism

But for the Mountains is a literal nightmare, especially for girls. It was confusing at first, but after realising with a horror, even the first page of this book started with the main character, Arden, being sexually assaulted.

Arden Thatcher grew up being sexually abused by the people that gave her a place to live. When she was given a chance to escape and enroll into the National Women’s Institute, she thought that her life would change. Instead, it was like she broke out from a prison, to yet another prison. The whole institute was simply a ploy for the Prime Minister's son to find a partner—and the rest of the girls will either be returned to their family or benefactor, or sent to a neighbouring country to feed the politicians' desires. Despite Arden's efforts to change the fate of the girls—and her own, changing something that was already ingrained in the society was a lot harder than anyone could ever think about.

This is a story about a survivor, a girl who had to suffer simply because she was born a girl. I love Arden's fierce character and her smart wits; although she was never prepared to be enrolled into the institute by her benefactor, she was clever enough to find matters that can help to her advantage. She was able to climb to the top spot on her own. I also love the no-nonsense side of her. When she realised the actual meaning of the whole institute, she despised the idea and rejected the Prime Minister's son's approach. She was independent, and with the way how she focused only on trying to bend the rules so that girls are allowed better lives, I believe that she had great leadership qualities.

Although I wish the story did not have a lot of focus on the romance, but I still do appreciate both of the male love interests. Declan, son of the Prime Minister, sounded sketchy at first and I had a hard time trusting him; he seemed too good to be true. But then his flaws were revealed, and though he was not a bad guy, his privilege as a Prime Minister's son also meant that he did not know most of the horrific things going on in the society. As for Beck, he might seem gruff and had a lot of hatred against everyone, but he understood Arden easily and did not hesitate to be there for her. Both characters are good male characters with realistic flaws.

The storyline was gripping, and as much as I loved it, I was also appalled by all the horrifying matters that Arden had to suffer. It had a rather open-ending, which I think could mean the author wanted readers to make their own conclusions, or perhaps giving room to a possible sequel. But for the Mountains was not an easy read, but an important one. It highlights the inequality when it comes to the treatment given between men and women, which still happens until this very moment. I hate that certain men still viewed women and girls as sexual objects and nothing more. This is just a proof that this book somehow portrays the bitter truth of this world.

I would love to recommend everyone to read But for the Mountains, especially if you love female characters that tries their best to survive their harsh fate, even if they have to overcome their fears. But please do note about the trigger warnings first.

Many thanks to Netgalley and REUTS Publications for this book in exchange for my honest review.


"I'm a survivor." The words come from a voice I'm not familiar with, from a girl I've never met, who's been quiet far too long. But I believe them—I believe her.

Till next time ♡ Love, Aishah Humaira'

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