Beyond the Hills: Book review and author interview

Review copy

Contents of this post



My review

Interview with Maressa Mortimer

Bio of Maressa Mortimer

Blog tour schedule


This post is part of the blog tour for Beyond the Hills, which is being launched on 18 June 2021. In my review of Maressa Mortimer’s first book in The Elabi Chronicles, Walled City, I mentioned that I cared enough about the characters to want to read the next book. The opportunity to join the bog tour arose and I read the .pdf file of the book on my phone before a review copy arrived in the post! Beyond the Hills may be ordered from the author’s website or bookshops worldwide and will also be available as a Kindle edition.

The blurb

Macia Durus, daughter of the well known Brutus Durus AMP, works hard to achieve a life of honour and prestige in her beloved Elabi. When a so-called “friend” challenges her priorities, Macia’s confusion threatens her carefully constructed plans. And her decision to investigate a forbidden book could have serious consequences for Macia as well as her family, turning their lives upside down.

My review

The scene has changed from the end of Walled City and the main character of that book is a mostly invisible influence on this second instalment. Macia was a minor character in Walled City.

Much of the story is told through her thoughts and actions. The growing influence of the forbidden book and the consequences introduce excitement and suspense. The differences between life in Elabi (the Walled City) and beyond the hills are demonstrated well through the actions and words of characters.

There is hardly any recapping of the events from the first book. The social hierarchy and strange manners may be inferred from the narrative. However for maximum enjoyment and understanding, I recommend reading the books in order of publication.

Although I am not a film buff, I wondered whether this series would make a good film. It is exciting enough, although Macia’s thought-life might be difficult to include in a film.

What the forbidden book is may be gleaned from the text. It would also be possible for readers to access the parts referred to in the story.

Interview with Maressa Mortimer

I asked Maressa some questions about writing the series.

In Walled City Gax experiences culture shock. To what extent did you find British culture different from that in your native country, the Netherlands?

As time went on, I realised there were more and more differences, some subtle, some more obvious. My main struggle has always been missing the Dutch straight forwardness, as well as the speed at which things are done (like lovely smooth roads), although this comes with a lot of pressure as well. Because Dutch society is so efficient, everyone needs to be fast and efficient, so even working on the tills of a supermarket means you have to be very quick. Some people with learning difficulties can really struggle under the pressure.

Although you have created an imaginary world as the setting for The Elabi Chronicles some of the places there have similarities to our own world either at present or in the past. Were you influenced by other books you have read and did you have to do a lot of research?

I was completely new to world building, and simply designed a world that I would like to set a book in. For visuals, I used a world from Sims3, and I decided to make the food Roman (hence the garum and fish oils mentioned in the book, as well as other foods). I decided to have it set in the southern hemisphere, and thankfully, my editor is from Australia, so she corrected my timings!

Physical fitness is a requirement of citizens of Elabi. I wondered which sports you participated in as a youngster. Did you enjoy sport?

P.E. lessons in the Netherlands are mainly gymnastics and team sports. I did do a year of Taekwondo when in college. I used to cycle a lot, and went to Arnhem with friends, which was a 50 kilometre round trip.

When do you expect to publish the next volume in the series? Is it going to be a trilogy?

It will at least be a trilogy, with a book about Downstream. I have started plotting it already, but will probably make it my NaNoWriMo project!

(National Novel Writing Month is November.)


Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published December 2019, and her first self published novel, Walled City, came out on December 5th 2020, followed by Viking Ferry, a novella. Beyond the Hills is the second book in The Elabi Chronicles, and will be released on June 18th 2021.

Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life.

June Blog/Book Tour Beyond the Hills Schedule

7th  Sophia Anyanwu

8th Lydia Jenkins

9th Patricia Leslie / @Patricialeslee (instagram)             

10th This post!

11th Katy Simpson Thrive With Live Video (Instagram)              

12th Tendayi  Olga              

Week 2

14th Victoria Kay (Instagram)

15th Claire Musters

16th Liz Carter and on the More Than Writers‘ blog         

17th Joy Margetts

18th Book Launch Facebook Live @Vicarioush.ome


Two more e-books I read in January 2021

The Young Adult books I am reviewing here are both from BorrowBox. On Midnight Beach will also appeal to older readers.

The Bookweaver’s Daughter by Malavika Kannan is a very exciting book. It has many elements expected of the genre – conflict between groups of people, adventure, fighting with weapons and with magic while a main protagonist discovers her identity. Additionally it is set in ancient Indian Kingdom of Kasmiri. Perhaps it was the result of magic that some of the scenes seemed to begin in new places with no explanation of how the people had arrived there. I enjoyed the book and was surprised to learn how young Malavika Kannan was when she wrote it. A friendship and the opening location in this book reminded me of The Red Ribbon.

On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

On Midnight Beach is set in Ireland in the hot summer of 1976. There is a sense of impending disaster from the very beginning. This is reinforced by the mention of The Lord of the Flies, a book I had to read at school and disliked intensely. However I found this story fascinating, if haunting. It is about teenagers rather than younger children. Relationships between teenagers and within their families are explored. The culture of the time is reflected in the well-crafted story, which ends with (at least to my mind) a ray of hope.


Two books I read in January 2021

Both the books I am reviewing here are described as Young Adult having teenage girls as the main protagonists. They both have historic events from World War 2 as a background. The holocaust was important for the plots of both these books. I hadn’t realised reading them, or indeed when I began to review them, that Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK is on 27 January, six days after this post is published.

Cover of Being Lena LeviBeing Lena Levi by Bobbie Ann Cole

In 1950 Marlene Roberts finds out her true identity and has to make a decision. The settings of post-war Canterbury, Germany before WW2 and overseas travel to Israel are described vividly. I was drawn into Lena’s dilemma and found that the book was a page-turner. The characters are credible and the events could not be predicted. It is a very informative, emotional read.

Being Lena Levi is a recent publication from Instant Apostle, which I received as a Christmas present. My review of one of Bobbie Ann Cole’s earlier books, Love Triangles, is here.

Cover of The Red RibbonThe Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington

The Red Ribbon: Every dress she makes could mean the difference between life and death is the January book club book from Cumbria Libraries (and other UK public libraries). I read it as an e-book on BorrowBox. It is set during 1944-5 against the backdrop of the holocaust. It is a story of friendship and creativity inside a notorious concentration camp. The details about dress-making are accurate – the author has an interest in costume, also writing nonfiction books. There are complex characters and twists and turns in the plot. Each chapter has the name of a colour. Again there is excitement and the reader is drawn into the story emotionally.