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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Beyond the Mountains: The William Stewart Saga by Peter Clarke is a historical novel set in colonial Australia and revolves around a gold prospector named William Stewart. This installment was preceded by An Ocean Away and Gold Rush. William is Irish by birth and is determined to leave Australia behind him, only to disembark in Sydney when he is told of a find in New South Wales. This is where the story hits its stride, with William navigating stretches of sparse and often hostile terrain, meeting others and forging alliances, and following the scent of gold that takes him to towns that seem to appear out of nowhere. William is confronted with tragic events, extreme losses, and love, ultimately staking a claim as a partner in prospecting and a partner in the next stage of living, both of which have the potential to bear abundant fruit.
Beyond the Mountains is a wonderful novel and Peter Clarke does exceptionally well in building on William's adventure as his life progresses. I have not read the other books in the series but found that this installment reads perfectly well as a standalone, although it is good enough to warrant going back and enveloping oneself in William's expansive backstory. The period details Clarke weaves in are incredible. Trust me when I assure you that nobody would want to have dental work while in a mining town and that there were people who lived there who had never tried coffee before. I'm not sure which of these I found more distressing. The writing is tidy and the pacing is excellent, the latter being aided by Clarke's talent for weaving tension into almost every scene. There is also a deeply beautiful travelogue element that sees parts of Australia almost becoming characters themselves. This is an excellent read and I'm sure others who enjoy the genre will agree. Highly recommended.