I’ve just realised I haven’t done an Adventure Series review since mid-May, oops! So now I bring you The Mountain of Adventure, the fifth in the series and originally published in 1949.
This time the Mannering/Trents are off to the mountains of Wales, to stay in a farmhouse with Mr and Mrs Evans. Bill says the farm is called “Doth-goth-oo-elli-othel-in,” but who knows if that’s even close to the real name!
There are some truly nasty bad people in this adventure, namely Mieir and Erlick (both names just conjure up nasty images, don’t they?). Mieir is described as ‘hawk-like’, while Erlick has an ‘ape-like face.
We see a fair bit of the Evans, or indeed the Effans as they pronounce it. Mrs Evans simply calls her husband Effans! Mrs Evans is the usual farmer’s wife, plump and red faced, bustling around and feeding everyone up, while Mr Evans is a jolly sort who finds Kiki utterly hilarious. There’s also the Trefor, the shepherd for the farm and his brother David who is rather useless. He doesn’t speak much English, he can’t read a simple map and he’s afraid of things in the night. Later in the book we meet Sam who, like Jo-Jo, gets lambasted by the PC brigade for being an offensive stereotype. Sam uses the N-word to refer to himself and perhaps comes across as not very clever, but he’s a kind person and brave too, he’s a paratrooper who escapes from the baddies of the book.
The plan is for everyone to go camping for a few days, but Mrs Mannering hurts her handand Bill stays with her so he can take her to the doctors, this means the children go off on the donkeys with David. As I said, he’s rather useless and they quickly find themselves lost. They make camp and that night see a pack of wolves roaming the valley. David is terrified and runs off, taking all but one of the donkeys with him. The wolves turn out to be Alsations, and it’s only thanks to Philips skill with animals that the pack is friendly to them. Lucy-Ann spots Sam hiding, and he tells her there are bad men in the mountain, he is then caught by the Alsations and Philip is too.
The other children find their way into the mountain after seeing a helicopter landing on top of it and inside they find a bizarre world. They must find their way from a cave which seems to contain nothing but a black pool, through miles of passageways, caves, galleries, through a throne room, past a pit which exudes strange lights and smoke and a laboratory full of frightening glass, fires and wires.
The children end up getting caught, and are taken to meet the so-called King of the Mountain. He’s a rather mad old scientist who thinks he can create anti-gravity wings. Mieir and Erlick are working with him, organising groups of ex-paratroopers, like Sam, to test out the wings from the the helicopter.
They plan to use Philip next, as he’s nice and light. Bravely, Philip accepts his fate but when the helicopter takes him up the pilot shouts back “don’t forget Bill Smugs!”
With Bill on the case of course things end well, but it’s not easy and for a while it looks like it might not work out happily.
Philip adopts a baby goat from the Evan’s farm, who Mrs Evans says is called Snowy. He’s a boisterous little thing, who likes to head-butt the children, and he’s very sure footed. Philip also finds a slow-worm which he calls Sally Slither. Unsurprisingly, Dinah much prefers Snowy to Sally!
I’m not sure what my favourite part of this book is. Perhaps the way Philip sets the Alsations on their master, which is a nice bit of justice for the way they’ve been treated. I quite like how sinister this book is too. It’s not explicitly stated but it’s obvious the other testers of the wings have jumped to their deaths, and that Philip could well be the next body sniffed out by the Alsations. Bill turning up at just the right moment is marvellous too, it’s been a long, long time since the first time I read this but it’s still so exciting to hear him yell out the name Bil Smugs.
Bill has come along this time, ostensibly to keep the children out of trouble. He clearly cares about Mrs Mannering though, as he stays with her while the children go off camping. As Philip says “Will Bill go if Mother’s hurt? He thinks the world of her.”
I know a lot of people hate the stereotypical Welshness of the book, but I never picked up on that as a child. I didn’t know any Welsh people, I’d probably heard a Welsh accent on TV but that’s it. There’s a lot of look-yous and whateffers, sometimes even both together, but I quite like it!
There are a few events and places here that remind me of other books. The most similar would have to be The Secret Mountain, which also has a group of children find a way inside a mountain, finding a strange community and getting trapped there.
The moment they hide in the tunnel from the dogs is a little like when the Five plus Pongo and Nobby hide in the underground caves in Five Go Off in a Caravan.
Next review – The Ship of Adventure