We have MiscJoy back for another guest post. This time, she is reviewing the newest book by Allison Pang – A Trace of Moonlight.
**BLURB SPOILER ALERT** When I went to grab the blurb for this review, I was surprised by how many story elements were revealed. I read from an ARC so there was no blurb. Personally, I’m a “no spoilers” kinda gal. I’m glad I read the book without knowing anything up front. An Allison Pang novel is best when all is revealed at its proper time:-)
Drinking from the waters of lethe and offering herself up as Faerie’s sacrificial Tithe . . . these just might be the least of Abby Sinclair’s problems
Abby’s pact with a daemon—whether or not she remembers making it—is binding, so she’d better count herself lucky that (in the words of a daemon who knows better) there’s nearly always a loophole. But her friends’ reckless attempts to free her, well intentioned though they may be, set off a disastrous chain of events. In no time at all, Abby turns her incubus lover mortal, then gets herself killed, cursed, and married to an elven prince whose mother wants her dead. On top of everything else, she’s lost the Key to the CrossRoads to her mortal enemy, who promptly uses his restored power to wreak havoc on the OtherWorld and put its very existence in jeopardy.
Only one person can make things right again, but to find her, Abby must place her trust in allies of mixed loyalties, and conquer her nightmares once and for all.
*Blurb from the Author’s Website here: http://www.heartofthedreaming.com/books/a-trace-of-moonlight/
A Trace of Moonlight is the third and final book of the Abby Sinclair series. I was unfamiliar with Allison Pang’s work prior to being assigned this ARC, so I downloaded the sample of the first book to get a sense of the series. The sample hooked me and I ended up purchasing both of the first two books (A Brush of Darkness and A Sliver of Shadow) and proceeded to gorge myself on them. If you haven’t yet read the first two books, I highly recommend doing so. This is a great action-based Urban Fantasy series with a strong thread of romance (and yes, sex) woven throughout. It is a progressive series so the books are not stand-alone reads. A Trace of Moonlight picks up right after the cliffhanger of A Sliver of Shadow where Abby makes the personal sacrifice and drinks the water of lethe in an attempt to save her friends.
What struck me upon beginning this series was the writing. Oh, what lovely writing! Here is an author who chooses her words with care and precision. I thoroughly enjoyed how Pang uses the first-person POV. In book 1, Abby doesn’t know much about the Otherworld. As a result, neither do we. Pang lets the story unfold in an organic way and as a result we, the reader, get to experience all the delicious confusion that Abby is experiencing. We learn as Abby learns. Pang does not attempt to cheat the first-person POV rules just to put the reader at ease or to break her consummate balance between Show v Tell. With Pang, we do not get loads of information-dump. She uses sensation and sense memory to create powerful and poignant scenes such as this one from A Brush of Darkness:
Helpless, I let the memory wash over me, a bittersweet wave tinged by the copper taste of blood and the blinding gleam of headlights. It was wrapped in the perfect stillness of the asphalt and pine trees through the cracked windshield, overcome by the repetitious seat-belt chime and the remainder of my mother’s brainpan in my lap.
This is how we learn, early on, of the car accident that took her mother’s life. When I first read that paragraph, the beauty of that prose stopped me in my reading tracks. Literally stopped me. Pang does not just come out and tell us that Abby’s mom was killed in a car accident. No, she recreates Abby’s experience of it and shares it with us and it is all the more compelling. Brava, Ms. Pang, Brava.
I like it when an author drops me in the middle of the story and introduces terms, ideas and characters without explicitly defining them right up front. It requires me to squirrel away information to piece together like a puzzle. It draws me into the story and involves me in the mystery of it all. Pang masterfully pulls all the pieces together as the story develops so that in the end, it all makes sense – at least to the degree that Abby understands it. It really is a great ride.
So often in Urban Fantasy, a ”strong female character” refers to a kick-ass heroine with fighting skills and the ability to put down any baddie that gets in her way. In Abby’s case, her strength lies in her love for her friends and sense of duty and responsibility. Abby will make a decision with the information she has in the moment, act on that decision and accept the consequences of that action – and there are consequences! – without whining about it. She will admit her TSTL (too stupid to live) moments and do whatever she can to mitigate the situation often willing to put herself up as sacrifice to save those she cares about. Her ability to see a person for who they are despite outward appearances is a transformative act of pure grace. It was a pleasure to see her world through her eyes.
Brystion, at times, broke my heart. His level of self awareness of what he was and his ultimate acceptance of that even in the face of loathing it was painful to experience. The archetypal pattern of the incubus (similar to vampire) at its core is based on the need to feed off of others to survive. Something he is well aware of. Archetypal patterns are in themselves neutral; however they can manifest in both Light and Shadow ways. Brystion can’t change what he is but he does develop an honor code to live by and he holds himself stringently to it. In so doing, he transforms what could be so easily be a Shadow archetypal pattern into a Light manifestation of it. He wants his relationship with Abby to be more of an exchange rather than a one-way feeding. His steadfast refusal to take anything that is not freely given despite his own needs is admirable. In this third installment, Brystion gets to experience something he has always wanted but could never have. It brings him both joy and sorrow. In the end, he will have to decide what he is willing to sacrifice in order to keep it.
I must admit a soft-spot for Talivar, the elven Prince. If there were “teams,” I’d probably be on his – he paints such a tragic figure it pulls on my heart strings. Brystion is more self-assured than Talivar and I’m usually one to root for the underdog. As for archetypal patterns that a character needs to transform, the Martyr would seem to fit Talivar (of course, he is more than just that). The archetypal pattern of the Martyr is one who endures suffering that may either be self-imposed or in the service of others. Even after Talivar was so grievously wounded by his father and essentially cast-out of the Seelie court, he still longed to return and did so. But his physical presence in the Seelie court was something tolerated rather than accepted. He so craved to be accepted and suffered for it. Talivar will have to decide if he is willing transform the Martyr and let go of his desire to be accepted by his family in order step into the role that is waiting for him with the Unseelie court.
For those familiar with the series, you know that we’ve been set up for a love triangle between Abby, Brystion and Talivar. While the romance element is a significant aspect to the storyline, the action of the plot is front-and-center and the romance element orbits around that. Normally, I dislike love triangles. And if I’m honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy that element in A Trace of Moonlight. Somebody always gets hurt and knowing that inevitability puts a serious buzzkill on my hopeful romantic self. Having said that, if a love triangle must be part of a story, Pang approaches the subject in an artful way. The relationship that Abby has with Brystion (book 1) comes across just as real as the one that later develops between her and Talivar (book 2). Each relationship is unique to the blending of the individuals involved.
The secondary characters felt just as real and fleshed out as the primary characters. Their presence added depth to the story whereby their absence would have been felt. So often, secondary characters serve little more than to act as a foil to the main character(s). But Pang weaves them into the story and makes them integral to the over-arching series plot line. Melanie, Nobu, Sonja, Moira – any one of them could easily have their own stories to tell. I really enjoyed learning more about Melanie and Nobu in A Trace of Moonlight as they came to play key roles at the conclusion of this series. And let’s not forget Phineas. I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying the comic relief that is Phin: the horny, miniature unicorn. One of my favorite lines in A Brush of Darkness involved Phin at the moment Abby was trying to capture/save him:
I raised my voice, craning my head over the shelves, trying to remember whatever bits of unicorn lore I knew. “Is anyone here a virgin?”
Of course not.
*snort* If you haven’t read the series yet, trust me when I say this bitty snippet sets the tone for Phin’s character.
Overall, I loved this series and I highly recommend it. I took a bit off because of a few nits including Abby’s inability to learn not to call someone’s name out at the wrong time (seeing as how she did so in all three books on multiple occasions, she had ample opportunity to develop some restraint and it felt like a crutch to get the action going in a scene), the author’s distracting overuse of the word shuddered/ing and its related shivered/ing (although it would make a great drinking game) and because I disliked the love triangle that developed between Abby, Brystion and Talivar – even if it was handled deftly by the author.
My rating for A Trace of Moonlight is an A-.
Being a bit of a hermit, MiscJoy’s love affair with reading began early on in life when she discovered the rich solitude that comes from experiencing a good story. When life isn’t busy intruding, she can usually be found holed up somewhere in her house with a book (usually on her Kindle), a cat or two and at least one dog curled near her feet. She is currently giving her life a complete overhaul (‘cuz hittin’ the forties is a bitch! But in a good way;-) and trying her hand at various creative endeavors including blogging, book reviewing and finding ways to cook for her veggie family that don’t include gluten, grains, dairy or sugar (it’s not as bad as it sounds).