The Dark Moon, by Julia Gray

Summary: (Taken from The birth of the Emperor’s son had been prophesied many years before. The child would be the Guardian, savior of his people. What had not been foreseen was the fact that there would be two imperial children born that night. Jax, the firstborn, is raised in the Imperial Palace and groomed for his role as the future leader of The Floating Islands. Terrell, second born and hideously disfigured, is banished to Havenmoon, where he will spend his life unaware of his birthright. Both have hidden talents, but is either the true Guardian? When the Islands begin to spin out of control, in danger of colliding with the mainland, the prophecy begins to unfold.

Thoughts: This is a reread for me, which ought to say something in its own right. Despite the very overused plot description, this was actually a very enjoyable book with twists, turns, and an interesting and complex societal structure.

I find it particularly interesting that the main character, Terrell, is disabled, and this is called attention to quite often. Wth a twisted leg and a withered arm, he sometimes has to find ways of doing things that are different than what abled people would do, which is a nice touch. Disabled folk don’t often get a lot of showtime in epic fantasy novels, somewhat understandably so since it’s hard to go off on adventures when your body doesn’t work very well. Thus, it’s interesting to see Terrell try to get by.

On the flip side, though, some of the disability was glossed over. With such problems, Terrell should have been facing increased energy use, serious pain when sleeping on anything other than a decent bed, and trouble moving over land that isn’t particularly flat. Instead, he manages to do things like climbing down mine shafts in the dark. It’s not that I’m saying it’s impossible to do those things, but I am saying that it would be a lot harder than the author made it sound. Travelling for weeks on end would have been a lot more taxing than the author made it sound!

In spite of this, and a rather overdone-sounding description of the plot, this book manages to pull you in and along rather well. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Julia Gray, it’s her ability to create and submerge the reader in wonderfully rich and complex cultures. It’s her biggest talent, I’d say, when it comes to her novels, and given that I have a pet interest in anthropology, it’s not hard to see another aspect of this series that kept me pushing onward to the next paragraph, next chapter, next book.

Another talent of hers is to make people question. There are so many different shades of truth presented in this novel, both from the character’s point of view and the reader’s. Jax is shown off to the world as the Guardian, but it’s obvious to even most other characters that he isn’t. Thus we think Terrell’s the real Guardian, which has support from other characters in the book. But sometimes events happen that make you question which one may actually be the Guardian after all. Is it neither? Both? There’s nothing definitive in this book, or the next book, or the one after that. Though there are hints and pieces of speculation, it isn’t entirely revealed until near the end of the fifth and final novel.

Though to be fair, the revelation doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anybody apart from a few characters. But the way the author makes you question your assumptions every once in a while is pretty clever sometimes.

If you’re in the mood for some epic fantasy that isn’t particularly dark (or daunting, as this series is only 5 books long), give this one a whirl. It’s light, it’s fun, but it’s a richer world and story than you’d first think when reading the back of the book. Well worth it, in my opinion.

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