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Reviewed by Maria Victoria Beltran for Readers' Favorite
The Cordillera by Luis Rousset-Velho is a very engaging story of adventure, suspense, as well as romance. The story unravels as the sixteen-year-old Jacques Laurent conquers the Fitz Roy mountain with Ignacio, his uncle. Ignacio’s father and Jacques’ grandfather are brothers and were junior officers in the Red Army. They emigrated from Russia to France in the late fifties, to escape from one of Stalin’s purges. Jacques’ grandfather remained in France, while Ignacio’s father went on to Argentina to become a wealthy owner of two estancias. Born in France, Jacques spends his summers on his bachelor uncle’s cattle ranches in the provinces of La Pampa and Patagonia where both share a deep love for horses, cattle, and the mountain ranges around them. Upon their return home, they have an unexpected visitor in Irina, a close family friend from Russia. She will form a deep relationship with Jacques who is her companion during her short but eventful visit. The boy is set to attend the prestigious École Polytechnique in Paris where he meets Anne Marie. Upon his graduation, however, he receives an offer that will change his life forever. He will soon find himself on a rescue mission in Nicaragua, taking him to the jungles of the Amazon, the underbelly of Paris and Istanbul, and to the rubble of Aleppo in Syria. This is the story of Jacques’ loves and extraordinary adventures deeply rooted in the spectacular mountain ranges of Argentina.
Luis Rousset-Velho’s The Cordillera lets the reader experience life in an estancia, a horse ranch, or a working cattle ranch in Argentina. It is an interesting life based around horses, hearty home-cooked food, and clinking glasses, beautifully painted with the author’s descriptive style. The first few pages extoll the sport of mountain climbing; the courage and physical demands of reaching, or trying to reach high points in mountainous areas, as well as the joy and thrill of the climb. There is no doubt that the intense physical activity of hiking, rock climbing, and traversing slopes sometimes covered with ice and snow greatly influenced the young Jacques Laurent. What I like most in this novel is its powerful exposition and after the background information on the characters and setting is effectively explained at the beginning, what follows is a fast-paced series of adventures that will leave the reader breathless. The characters are well developed with personality traits that reflect their backstories. Complex like real people, the characters exhibit realistic actions and emotions and are highly relatable to the reader. You will find all the elements of an adventure story in this novel as the storyline takes the protagonist from his familiar everyday surroundings to new and unfamiliar environments. There is never a dull moment as we follow Jacques on his interesting life journey of adventure and romance. Author Luis Rousset-Velho is a master storyteller and The Cordillera is a very engaging read. Highly recommended!