There was a line in the book, “Mountaineering is one of the last remaining extreme sports” and I cannot agree more with this statement. But sometimes I wonder why it is called an extreme sport, I don’t understand that. This is something where people die regularly and even then it is called a sport. I am no serious mountaineer, but then I am not completely naive about it either. I have done a fair bit of hiking/mountaineering and I can vouch for one thing – mountaineering is not just a test of one’s physical stamina, it is a test of one’s mental strength too. It takes a toll on the mind and the body. And this thing has been captured perfectly by Ronald Malfi in The Canyon of Souls.
The book follows the journey of a gifted sculptor Tim Overleigh as he tries to come to terms with the untimely death of his wife who had left him and loses his drive and talent to sculpt. He consumes himself with extreme sports, facing death at every turn to and avoids confronting his demons and keeps living in the past. He gets invited to visit the elusive Canyon of Souls along with a team of six. And soon death makes an appearance as the team struggles to remain sane and alive.
The protagonist has been sketched wonderfully. You can feel his pain when he reminisces about his dead wife, you can feel his frustration that his skill has deserted him. Ronald Malfi has breathed life into Tim Overleigh and you can easily empathize with him. The flow of the story while not linear completely, is not difficult to follow. Another thing I completely enjoyed about the book was the description of the locales – it makes one miss or dread the majestic Himalayas depending on your appetite for mountaineering. If somebody were to adapt this book into a movie it would make a really grand spectacle.
I wish the primary antagonist was characterized better. I would have loved to have this book narrated from his perspective too. It too would have made for an interesting read – Why the antagonist does what he does? There were a few time when I felt the book was a few pages too long. While the story never drags – you keep turning the pages, but there were a few incidents which could have been skipped altogether. Also for someone not familiar with the mountaineering jargon or techniques few paragraphs would not make any sense at all.
All in all The Canyon of Souls is a captivating thriller. What especially stood out was the locale which the author picked for the book. Imagine yourself in middle of a climb to a mountain where the closest civilization is at least a few days’ trek away and all you can rely on is yourself, and now imagine death lurking about, awaiting around the corner sharpening his knife especially for you. This is what this book made me feel like.
Addendum: This is a requested review. I was contacted by the publishers of this book for reviewing it.