On reading Cold Mountain, it is hard to believe that this is a debut novel. It has all the mastery of a classic, with evocative descriptions that give the reader a real feel for the age and place in which the novel is set. Cold Mountain is set in hard times, and the narrative reflects these - the hardships of both battle and simply surviving at home are not neglected (as some authors may have been tempted to do), in order to convey the romance more adequately. The sweet and the sour come together, with a balance of both that makes this book highly readable - appealing to those who prefer gritt and those who prefer sweetness. Perfect.