Beyond the Hills by Maressa Mortimer
I love books and I love reading, and one of the absolute delights of becoming a published author is making lots of new friends who are also writers. And who write great books – that they send me free copies of – and ask me to review for them! I am thrilled that my blog this week forms part of the Blog Tour for the new book by Maressa Mortimer, Beyond the Hills.
Beyond the Hills is the second book in the series of the Elabi Chronicles, fiction aimed at young adults but suitable for anyone teen and above. Walled City introduced us to Elabi, a dystopian world set sometime in the future, where society is strictly controlled, emotions are frowned upon, and faith actively prohibited. In the first book, Gax, a young man on a mission to share his faith, infiltrates the city for a time and becomes frustrated at how little he seemingly can do to make a difference. Beyond the Hills picks up from after he leaves, and shows just how much he did achieve, unknowingly, by living a different way among the people he interacted with. And by leaving behind a legacy… in the form of a few thin pages torn out of an ancient book.
I love reading, but the book I love reading the most is the Bible. I make no apologies for that. It has become more and more important to me, particularly over the last few years, to spend time in that amazing book. The Word of God, is exactly that to me. It speaks life and health and strength to me, every day. I was so thrilled then to discover that a major theme of Maressa’s new book is the power of the Word of God to transform a person’s life.
The central character in Beyond the Hills is a girl called Macia. She appeared only as a minor character in the first book, and when we first meet her she is the perfect Elabi citizen. Her father is a council member and she is aiming for the highest class status she can achieve, through hard work and assiduously keeping the rules. She is outwardly successful in her ambitions and her future seems secure, but inwardly she is struggling. Someone she was once close to mysteriously disappeared from Elabi, and left a letter containing a bundle of thin pages from a now barred book. Macia fights the urge to read the words on those pages but something draws her to them. The more she reads, the less resistant she is to reading more, and bit by bit she finds herself longing to read those life-giving words, returning to them over and over again, memorising them, and letting them change her heart. The changes in Macia do not go unnoticed, and to give nothing away, she finds she has to cling to those words she memorised to survive the devastating consequences of choosing to follow the God they introduce her too.
I asked the author why she chose to have Macia come to faith in God through the Word of God alone, and whether she knew of anyone else who had come to faith that way? This is what she said:
I wanted Macia to be touched by the Word, without any help. I think as Christians we can easily forget how powerful the Word is, and we think it’s up to us to ‘reach the lost’, forgetting God’s Spirit working irresistibly in people’s hearts. Macia has no understanding, or desire, to know God, yet the unfamiliar words, printed on strange paper, draw her back time and again. I found it utterly fascinating, and I felt myself wondering if she would carry on reading or throw the pages away. I have heard of people becoming Christians after reading the Bible only, but I can’t remember exact names or places. In most cases, I seem to remember that those people had met missionaries handing them the books, so at least there was some outside influence. I felt it was a message of hope, a casting your bread out on the water, trusting God to bless it and make it fruitful.
I thoroughly enjoyed Beyond the Hills. It did help that I had read Walled City first, but it does stand alone as a very readable and compelling story. I loved the way Maressa wove truths of scripture into the narrative, and her insights into Macia’s thoughts and feelings. I found myself drawn into Macia’s journey with all it’s twists and turns, and rooting for both her, and her fledgling faith in God, to survive. I am looking forward to book three, and knowing Maressa, it is well and truly in the pipeline!
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 5 December 2020, followed by Viking Ferry, a novella. Beyond the Hills is the second book in the Elabi Chronicles, and will be released on 18 June 2021.
Maressa is a home-schooling 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. Her books can be found on her website and on Amazon in both kindle and paperback format. You can follow Maressa on both Instagram and Facebook @vicarioush.ome