Sister of the Moon
Sister of the Moon is a dreary fantasy romance about a dying race of Sidhe (fairie folk) that I recommend leaving on the shelf if you’re looking for a little cheer this holiday season.
With each winter that passes, the Sidhe diminish in number. Invading “Men” have taken their livestock and crops and have forced them into hiding deep in the forest. Queen Scahta cannot bear to see her people face extinction and decides to find a strong-yet-gentle warrior to become their king and solve all of their problems. Because the weakened Sidhe are unable to produce healthy offspring, Scahta decides to choose one of the hardy “Men” she’s been watching. When she tells her people, they are understandably outraged. She proposes putting the chosen man through a year-long series of tests to prove his honesty, wits, and loyalty before he’s crowned king. However, one of her Sidhe men believes he’s no weakling and could do the job just as well. She agrees to put them both through the same series of tests, with the winner becoming king.
Anlon, lowly son of a herdsman, dreams of becoming one of the Fianna, a group of warriors of noble birth. In order to make his dreams a reality he’s been cleaning and cooking for the Fianna and taking a whole lot of ribbing in exchange for the chance to ride along with them. One night while he’s relaxing with a cold swim he’s approached by Scahta. She offers him the finest sword he’s ever seen in exchange for spending one year as her husband. He agrees with nary a question asked, (she is beautiful, and he’s a little tired of being at the Fianna’s beck and call) and is soon whisked away to the enchanted little glen the Sidhe call home.
Anlon quickly realizes that he will not be sharing Scahta’s bed until he demonstrates his worth and gains the acceptance of her people. He accepts Scahta’s terms without a yell, complaint, or even a little whine, (yes, folks, this is indeed a fantasy) and the testing begins. Though Scahta purposely remains all ethereal and distant, the two fall deeply (and, if you ask me, unbelievably) in love.
This book is an odd reading experience. The plot, such as it is, meanders along without a clear focus and left me shaking my head more often than not. A third of the story is spent testing the Sidhe male and Anlon, then Anlon goes on a mission to purify a sword, he magically (and awkwardly) goes back in time to relive the Sidhe’s downfall, then he goes back to the Fianna and is separated from Scahta in a very annoying plot twist…it goes on endlessly. This all might have been interesting if the story weren’t so emotionless and the reading experience one of such detachment. To make matters worse there is a shocking lack of sexual tension and romance in the story. Anlon is clearly infatuated with Queen Scahta, but it never progresses to the next level. Scahta admires Anlon but holds all of the cards in the relationship; her love is questionable.
The conversations and thoughts of the characters are another stumbling block. They sound unnatural and fail to evoke passion of any kind despite the abundance of exclamation points thrown in to spice up the most mundane dialogue. Worse still are Scahta’s starving people who, instead of spending their energy trying to do something helpful like grow food in their little enchanted hideaway, follow the couple around and seem able to converse only in whispered bouts of repetitive phrases such as: “Find them. Find them. Find them.” or “We are weird and useless. We are weird and useless. We are weird and useless.” Okay, that last one’s mine, but you get the drift. These Sidhe are simply not people I could root for.
Anlon is brave and true and Scahta is an admirable (if weak) leader, but these two characters never come alive and didn’t engage my interest. The romance is a sterile, passionless affair and, with one character doing all of the work, remains lopsided to the end. Sister of the Moon tries hard to be a fantasy-adventure-romance, but lacks the emotion and the tension needed to pull it off with success. What results is a dull, meandering, melancholy story that left me with an acute case of the reading “blahs”. If you’re looking for a darker-edged but emotionally engaging fantasy with a thread of romance, you’d do much better picking up Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, Sharon Shinn’s The Shapechanger’s Wife, Catherine Asaro’s The Quantum Rose or Donna Boyd’s The Passion and The Promise.