I was suggested to read Breathless by my partner’s mum. She said that, as we’re going to Switzerland later this year it might get be a good read to ready me for the walking and the hills we’ll be navigating. Breathless is about a blogger who ascends a mountain in hopes to get the story of the year about an incredible climber but soon realises people are being killed along the way. I sincerely hope this wasn’t a hint!
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Breathless is a fairly unique thriller novel. It follows the story of Cecily Wong, a blogger who covers outdoor sports and her journey to get her big break, the agreed interview with Charles McVeigh who is on the final leg of his record-breaking series of summit achievements. She has past traumas which keep bringing themselves to the forefront of her mind but she is determined to get to the top of this mountain to speak to McVeigh and get that big break.
Breathless plot – 4/5
The story of Breathless is a reasonably predictable one throughout. As Cecily Wong climbs the mountain, the eighth highest peak in the world Manaslu, she is confronted with nothing that is overly surprising. However, a death before the climb even happens causes some concern for her but as she hears more and more from people how deaths on these sort of climbs is quite common and so never really reacted to, it continues to build her nervousness and paranoia of those who she’s climbing with.
There weren’t many surprises or big twists throughout the majority of the plot. However, there is a twist towards the end that I would consider quite weak and one that I don’t think anyone would see coming because you’d have to have just randomly picked someone to do what was done to have gotten it right. And on the other hand, there’s a sort of twist you can see coming from very early on that wasn’t a surprise to me at all.
In general, the plot was fine but it never really sped up, it didn’t break any boundaries and it isn’t going to keep you incredibly hooked like some of the best thrillers out there. It ticks all the boxes and goes through the motions of a generic thriller.
Breathless characters – 3.75/5
Breathless is filled with quite a large number of characters. For context, Wong is taking part in an organised climb up Manaslu mountain. With these, you have an expert instructor who will take you up, with camps and stops along the way. Therefore, Wong is part o a large group filled with people with lots of different motives and experience levels.
Wong herself is fine as a character. She’s not particularly funny, she’s not particularly endearing and at times her lack of confidence in herself because of one incident she keeps drawing on made me wish we could start moving the plot along a bit quicker.
As for the characters that climb with Wong, McVeigh is quite a cool character, he seems genuinely nice, and inspirational and I think is one of the better two characters from McCulloch here. The other is another of Wong’s companions who climbs the mountains with her. This person is a social media influencer who climbs mountains all around the world and tracks it on her Instagram. At first, I thought she’d be some arrogant bimbo but she actually turned out to be incredibly selfless, kind and someone who I was routing for throughout!
Breathless final rating – 3.75
Despite its attempts to be a unique thriller, Breathless still ends up being fairly generic and formulaic. McCulloch does an impressive job with her knowledge of mountaineering and there is one character who I actually enjoyed our protagonists’ interactions with. But in general, the plot was predictable, had no real pace, and did nothing new and our main protagonist was about as formulaic a protagonist in a thriller as you can get, unfortunately. If you like mountaineering and killing, Breathless might be for you. If you’re looking for a great book today, this won’t likely be it.
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