Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never by Rebecca King

Illustrated by Raquel Ochoa.

Published by Orion Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Group, 2022.

Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never is such an original and thought provoking book! At its heart are the intriguing philosophical concepts of fate and destiny, and how much control we actually have over our lives.

Nearly 12-year-old Ember Shadows lives in the village of Everspring, where everyone receives a fate card by their twelfth birthday, sent down from the mysterious Mount Never. It tells them their purpose, their profession and how old they’ll be when they die. However, when Ember’s card arrives, it’s blank. Worse still, Ember’s sister’s card says that she will die within the year. In order to save Juniper and challenge what – or who – is responsible for these cards, Ember sets off up the mountain. On her journey, she encounters forbidden realms full of magic, trickery and curious creatures.

The story is inventive and brilliantly imaginative; I loved all the different magical realms, especially the snooty bookworms and the flying books of the Know-It-Hall. Each realm has a puzzle to solve or an obstacle to overcome and it’s a thrilling race against the clock to the top of the mountain.

Ember makes friends along the way – the most brilliant being Hans. He’s one of the hands from a clock and he’s magically come alive. He’s a bubbly bundle of energy: cheerful, excitable and almost endlessly optimistic. I loved him!

As well as exploring friendship, the book examines themes of family, grief, loss and guilt. Ember is struggling to deal with the death of her father; despite it being an accident, she feels responsible and during the course of the story we watch her wrestle with all the complicated associated emotions.

Ember is a super lead character: determined, creative and bold. She is ready to question everything and prepared to consider new ways of doing things. Ember is also a terrific advocate for STEM; she’s an inventor, always designing and making gadgets.

Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never is a book that will stay with me for a long time. As someone who likes certainty and seeks to control as much of my life as possible, the book’s key messages about fate really struck a chord with me. For years, the fate cards have been unquestioned by the people of Everspring. People have been blindly following their pre-determined fates, giving up on their hopes and dreams because they contradict what has been written for them. Maybe there’s comfort in certainty but how about your fate being unwritten and instead determined by the choices you make – wouldn’t there be more space for adventure and excitement that way?

”Life is supposed to be messy, and we aren’t supposed to have it all mapped out for us. We can’t control everything.”

Ember Shadows, page 257.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Orion for sending me this book to review. I reviewed Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never as part of the blog tour where author Rebecca King wrote me an exclusive piece about the sibling relationships which inspired Ember and Juniper. Click here to read her guest post.


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