Beastlands: Race to Frostfall Mountain

Beastlands: Race to Frostfall Mountain

By Author / Illustrator

Jess French



Age range(s)



Piccadilly Press




Paperback / softback




BEFORE THERE WERE PEOPLE, THERE WERE BEASTS . . .  The island of Ramoa was once luscious and populated with mighty beasts. Now though, it is home to barren and tamed cities, where nature is locked out and trouble is brewing.

When Kayla's beloved animal companion, a rare winged pangron, is stolen, she's determined to get him back. But to do so, she'll have to leave her city and journey into the wild and forbidden Beastlands.  There, she meets Rustus, an exiled young warrior, and Alethea, a healer desperately seeking a cure for a mysterious disease.

As their quests unite them, they'll adventure across the lands they know so little about, leading them to discoveries both great and terrifying. Not least that the beasts they've always been taught to fear might not be so terrifying after all...

The first instalment in an epic new fantasy adventure series for readers of DRAGON REALM, FIREBORN and SKANDAR AND THE UNICORN THIEF.



Kayla is a cadet Sky Rider, training at the Sky Academy in Sophiatown. Her only friend is her pangron, Faro, and when he is stolen from her, she will stop at nothing to get him back. Alethea is a healer living in the Blue District, the poorest in Ataria. She is trying to continue her father's work, helping others, particularly against the Scourge, a deadly disease killing many in the city and beyond. When her grandmother shows signs of the disease, Alethea knows she must leave the city to seek a cure. Rustus also lives in Ataria - but in the Red District. Desperate to gain positive attention from his disdainful father, he is determined to come first in the Scorching Ceremony, a test by which the Unscorched become the Scorched - esteemed warriors of the Atarian army. But when he fails this initiation, he is banished to the Beastlands. And here their worlds collide -and they find themselves an unlikely team, united in a quest to save Faro and find a cure for the Scourge...

Author Jess French's passion for nature and living things shines through the world she has created in Beastlands: Race to Frostfall Mountain, which in many ways reflects our own world. The care and attention to detail used in building the world of Ramoa, where the story is set, is phenomenal! Readers share in Rustus's wonder as he sees the plants and creatures outside the city walls for the first time, realising that he has been misled by those within. Alethea's passion for plants, her curiosity about them and respect for what they can do, is infectious.

Atmospheric and evocative, Jess's writing is a joy to read - and read aloud! Time is devoted at the beginning of the book to the development of each character, making the reader feel invested in each and ready to join them on their quest. Rustus, Alethea and Kayla are very different personalities from very different backgrounds, yet they complement each other brilliantly. Kayla is the most resistant to relying on and working with others as her experiences have taught her to be wary, but she learns to trust, finding that true friends are worth having and can be depended upon. Rustus is a great example of how people who are not always what they seem - or are expected to be - finding their place in the world; in Rustus's case, this is a place not defined by his father.

The plot romps along at a pleasing pace and would make an excellent class story or guided reading text. As well as an exciting and engaging tale, there is so much to discuss, explore and enjoy here such as showing respect and understanding for the plants and creatures of the world, working in harmony with the world rather than exploiting its bounty, and empathising with and getting to know others, rather than labelling and judging them.

Fortunately, the ending sets the scene for more books to come as I was very reluctant to leave this world as the story came to an end. Loved it! ‎

352 pages / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 7+


On the island of Ramoa, three young people live in three very separate societies. Kayla lives in Sophiatown where she is a Sky Cadet with her pangron, Faro. He is taken from her after another pangron is stolen. Alethea is a healer carrying on her father's work living in the Blue District, where the scourge is prevalent and she is desperately looking for a cure. Lastly, Rustus lives in Ataria where he is about to undertake the Scorching ceremony to become an esteemed warrior. After he fails this test, he has to leave Ataria and go into the Beastlands where the three meet up; Kayla to look for Faro, Alethea to look for a cure for the scourge and Rustus rather at a loose end as to what to do with his life. They unite in the quest to find the pangron and in particular, the cure for the scourge as Kayla falls sick with it and there is said to be a hospital on Frostfall Mountain.

Beastlands: Race to Frostfall Mountain has one of the most complicated beginnings I have read for a long time, introducing the three young people and their differing backgrounds along with an overwhelming number of names of plants and beasts, along with words like 'necrotic'. Once the first few chapters have been negotiated, the story moves apace with the three main characters with their differing personalities and interests coming together and helping and supporting each other.

There are some good descriptions of the settlement and hospital on Frostfall mountain but it does stretch belief somewhat that an unknown plant juice would be injected into Kayla's bloodstream in an attempt to cure her, and that Alethea would be encouraged to do this by a doctor. There is an interesting directory at the end of the book describing the various beasts with drawings, put together by Maltheus Macdonald and it would have been good to put these in the main body of the text as they first appeared, as has been done with the plants. The ending leads to a sequel.

352 pages / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


Other titles