Eleven-year-old Carter and his older sister, 13-year-old Grace, arrive for a day hike at Blood Mountain with their father and their dog, Sitka. They seem well prepared, as though they’ve hiked together many times before.
However, the family don’t know that they’re not alone on the mountain. Sharing the terrain is a park ranger named Makayla and a nameless man who’s been living in the wilderness, hiding from society, having withdrawn from human contact for so long that speaking feels unnatural to him. These characters provoke the reader’s curiosity as to when and how their paths will cross.
Meantime, Carter runs ahead of his father on the trail. Grace follows and joins Carter. Father, daughter and son are all heading toward the same destination, but within hours, their lack of knowledge of the route and their limited preparation for the unexpected become clear—and their hike becomes an increasingly dire matter of survival.
Author James Preller’s omniscient narrator alternates perspectives between the siblings, the mountain man and the park ranger with a chillingly spare and rhythmic cadence that keeps readers on edge, wondering what each character’s next move will bring. The setting itself exerts pressure: The mountain, the forest and all of its creatures are unyielding, beautiful and predatory.
Readers who enjoy the outdoors will tear through Blood Mountain and remember its lessons, while readers who prefer to stay inside will enjoy its suspenseful storytelling. Blood Mountain is worth diving into for its believable yet unpredictable characters, its intriguing, realistic details and a predicament that could go miraculously right or disastrously wrong.