For What It's Worth

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guest Review: Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews


Here's this month's Guest review by Tiger Holland from Tiger's All Consuming Books.

Bayou Moon (The Edge, Book 2)

Bayou Moon
Ilona Andrews
Ace Fantasy, September 2010

William's life is one giant void. He's left the Weird (the magical world where he's been a soldier, an
outcast, and a noble, but mostly a feared and hated wolf changeling), he's working in the Broken (the
mundane world of Wal-Mart and McDonalds), and living in the Edge (the half-magic borderland
between the two places), but no matter where he is in the worlds, he's 100% alone. And though solitude
is William's default state, he's not a loner by nature. He'd love to have friends and a family, but he
knows that they aren't meant for people like him because in the Weird, he was treated like scum and
raised in a brain-washing military facility, like all changeling children in the dukedom of Adrianglia.
No matter how amazing a warrior William is, he maintains a hearty dose of self-loathing; he doesn't
actually hate himself, but he doesn't believe he's worthy of any of the good things in life. So he sits at
his home in the Edge with only his flat screen TV and his horde of collectible action figures to keep
him company, until agents of Adrianglia's secret service come to recruit him to hunt down the baddest
of all bad dudes: Spider, the leader of the assassins and spies of Louisiana's Hand, who is, among other
atrocities, a child murderer. At last William has a purpose to drive him.

Cerise's life is one giant mishap. She lives in the Mire, the swampy part of the Edge between regular
Louisiana and Weird Louisiana, and the property values are at an all-time low. The Weird dumps its
criminals and exiles into her neighborhood, a decades-old feud between her family, the Mars, and the
Sheeriles has flared to life again, and her parents have been kidnapped by the Hand, leaving her to lead
the 50+ members of her family. The Mar money has dried up, and because of their poverty, toughness,
and abundant numbers, the other Edgers refer to them as the Rats, to the point that their huge family
residence is called the Rathole
mind stealing to keep the kids fed and warm. If her family weren't too magical to survive the transition
to the Broken, she would move them all in a heartbeat, but it seems that they're all irrevocably bound to
feuding, scrounging and scraping out a life in the Mire. But then she finds herself on a days-long trek
through the swamp with a steely-eyed blueblood from the Weird. His name is William, and they may
need each other temporarily, to navigate the Mire and oppose the Hand, but there's no way she can trust
him. Or is there? Perhaps something good is finally happening to Cerise, even as her world is crashing
down.

Bayou Moon, I love thee. Let me count the ways.

The wordbuilding is exquisite. The Edge is such a gritty place, completely lacking in any sort of
glamour or polish. Almost everyone is poor, danger crops up constantly, and every action has harsh
consequences: when the Sheeriles kidnap Cerise's dad and produce a deed with his signature saying
that her lawful property is now theirs, the burden of proof is on her to show that they're violating Mar
family rights. If you kill a flesh-eating mud eel belonging to the Gospo Adir Sect of necromancers,
you have to make a pricey restitution. There's social backlash for almost anything Cerise and William
do, and unfortunately it takes William a while to realize this. The social and environmental details are
complex, so it does help to have read the first book in the series, On the Edge, so you know the general
world rules, though there are definite differences in the two volumes. Book one felt like rural Alabama
or Tennessee, and this one absolutely feels like the Louisiana bayou, plus magic and monsters.
Speaking of monsters, the Mire comes equipped with 25-foot-long ervaug gators, bone sharks from the
Weird, and mud eels with legs... *sigh* I love a good monster, and these are extraordinary. The villains
of the Hand are monsters too; physically altered showpieces of body-horror that reek of dark magic.

The romance is also to die for. It develops very gradually and naturally, no insta-love or “just knowing”
that the other person is their true love. William and Cerise really get to know and respect each other
before getting together, and they're so awesome, I think I may like them even better than Rose and
Declan from book one. These two are both larger than life, but at the same time, very human. Cerise
manages an entire extended family, plus she's death with a sword and has some serious magical talent,
but she's tender-hearted toward her family and devastated when they're hurt. William is a trained killer
who can turn into a wolf and is also capable of going into a battle mode called “the rending” where
he slaughters everything in his path, but he loves children and wishes he had someone to come home
to. They're evenly matched in terms of skill and smarts, but William is physically much stronger
and Cerise is far superior at managing and finessing people, so they complement each other. Both
character's POVs are excellent, and you absolutely need both to get the full impact of the story—they
are equally fascinating and equally easy to love.

To add to the growing list of virtues, Bayou Moon is also funny. William and Cerise both have a
sense of humor, and in such a dark story some lighthearted moments are vital. It's the little things like
William's opening scene where he's talking to his action figures because he has no one else to listen to
him, or his obsession with getting dry socks after he winds up in the Mire. Then there's Cerise's run-ins
with her various wacky-yet-dangerous family members (especially the thieving Kaldar—rumor has it,
he may be getting his own book. I sure hope so!), her wry comments, and her straight-faced reaction to
funniest courtroom scene I can recall reading.

I've heard this series called rustic fantasy and romantic urban fantasy, and Bayou Moon fits both terms
and more. The great mix of technology and magic is definitely UF, but the swords and monsters add a
high fantasy flair. Certain important inventions could easily be found in science fiction, there are some
Southern Gothic elements, and the story's so ominous in some places it has a definite H.P. Lovecraft
feel to it and could qualify as dark fantasy. Whatever it is, it's tremendous. It's an ambitious longer
book with a more epic scope than the previous volume, but every page has a payoff and the journey is
in every way worth the time spent.

Rating: 4 of 4 stars.

Karen here:
Thanks Tiger! Amazing review as always. You can read my far less eloguent review for Bayou Moon HERE.  I share in Tiger's William / Cerise love!!

Please consider giving these two their own series!! Pretty please with chocolate sprinkles on top!!

5 comments:

  1. Fantastic review Tiger! I'm about halfway through this one and really like both William and Cerise. I agree, I love the slow-building romance more than the insta-lust, and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for them to get together.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent review, Tiger, thank you! :)

    This book actually sounds really really really good ... been on a YA reading streak lately and haven't felt like ANY other kind of book, but I might just buy this one and let it sit on my shelf, so I don't forget about it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Bella - If you liked Tiger's review then you will love Bayou Moon. She channeled her inner Ilona for that review and it describes the book perfectly. You will Love William and Cerise!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great review!
    This is one book that I really want to read this year, since book 1 made me love UF

    ReplyDelete
  5. I thought this was a great review and I included a link to it in my own Bayou Moon post.

    ReplyDelete