Sunday, 12 April 2015

Moonlands - Steven Savile

Published;  April 17th 2015, BadPress

Source; ARC kindly provided by Netgalley

My Rating; 3 out of 5 stars

The Set Up; 

Ashley Hawthorne believes that she is a normal going on sixteen-year-old, attending a girl's school in London by day and often left to her own devices by her busy mother by night. So what if she feels that somehow she doesn't fit into her own life; as if she is watching it from the outside. And then her Great Aunt Elspeth Grimm dies, leaving Ashley a strange bequest that makes her wonder if the old lady was all there towards the end. Events take a strange turn from that moment forward. There are creatures that don't belong in London - that don't belong in Ashley's world at all - abroad, and Ashley finds herself remembering things she cannot possibly know. Things about a land with seven moons and tribes of peoples who are not human at all...

What's in a name? Well it depends on whether the name is 'Grimm'...


Reviews that start 'I really wanted to like this book...' are a bit of a cop out in my opinion. however in this case I really wanted to be able to award this book a higher rating and I couldn't. The first two thirds of the book are good; engrossing, well-paced, keep-you-guessing - all accompanied with fascinating little snippets of world building and new additions for the bestiary. Unfortunately the last third of the book undoes much of the good work of the first and second thirds. The pace slows to a crawl. Events happen inexplicably with characters acting in strange ways against their established motivations without properly leading the reader to draw the required conclusions. Instead there is the disorienting sense that we are meant to leap to conclusions. I don't need everything spelled out for me but this book does so many one-eighties that it negates its own narrative arc. 

As far as characters go I like Ashley but she lacks much agency at the start and has none whatsoever at the end. Things just happen to her - it's all reaction. I was hoping to see character development but instead I got a pencil outline. I like Blaze too but considering the circumstances of he and Ashley meeting, I would have expected a lot more warring with his nature than we got. Add to that some very odd attempts at sexual tension and the promise was pretty much smothered. 

And there are plot holes. Everyone, no matter how hard they try, leaves a few tiny holes but in the last third of this there were gaping chunks that just didn't make sense. It really felt like it needed more time spent on it and perhaps another draft or so. This was underlined by the fact that the occasional typos in the earlier half, increased so that there were on average at least one or more, or transposed prepositions and possessives or super-numery words, on every page. We can all forgive the odd error. There's always a couple that make it through but this felt like the last third hadn't been proofread at all. 

So what saved it? Well the world building was fabulous. The cast of creatures was weird and wonderful (frankly we just didn't get to see enough of them, they were under used.) There was wry humour and moments of genuine horror. It was on the road to being a great fantasy romp. Ultimately I think it is held back by those things I mentioned and by Ashley's jarring and inexplicable decision making in the last two chapters.

On the other hand I liked the world enough that I would be tempted to try the next book. Make of that what you will.

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