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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Adults - Fiction

Cover Art: The Dark of the Moon
The Dark of the Moon
By E. S. Bell
CreateSpace, 2017, ISBN 9781974398508, $14.99

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When 300 Zak’reth warships converge on Isle Calinda, Selena Koren is the only one who can save the people. This Aluren Paladin is gifted with the ability to summon the sea, but she’s young and still learning to use her power. She calls forth a wall of water, which destroys the 12,000 enemy warriors. The destruction ends the war, but the Two-faced God is angered that Selena’s wave also takes the lives of 400 innocent men, women, and children – the people she was trying to save. To punish her, the god wounds her with a black crescent-shaped hole over her heart.

Thus begins the first book in the Chronicles of Lunos series, and ten years have passed since that fateful day. Selena is known as the Tainted One, and ever since the god left the hole, she has never felt warmth. She prays daily for forgiveness and removal of the wound, but while the god answers her prayers to heal the sick, her pleas for self-healing go unanswered. Until she is summoned to the Moon Temple to meet with her superiors.

When Selena appears before the High Council, she learns of whispers of a new war with a new enemy. The Bazira follow the Shadow face of the god and have been slowly gathering adherents by preying on people’s fears and lack of hope. Two Bazira priests have gained much power and influence; to thwart this threat Accora and Bacchus must die, and the only one who might succeed in this endeavor is Selena. But cold-blooded murder goes against all that she believes. Her refusal to assassinate the priests results in a stern ultimatum – heed the order or be exiled and demoted in rank. Only one enticement convinces her to obey: forgiveness and the healing of her wound.

That promise entices Selena to accept the mission. Her sole companion these past ten years has been Ilior oth’Makir, a Vai’Ensai. Often called “dragonman,” he cannot return home because the Zak’reth ripped off one of his wings. Selena saved his life that day, and he has stood by her as both friend and guardian since before the attack on Calinda. The captain of the vessel hired to transport them to Accora’s island has no desire to enter those treacherous waters; instead, he abandons them on Isle Uago where pirates find safe haven.

Sebastian Vaas goes by many names, including Bloody Bastian – the moniker mothers sing in a ditty to warn their children to behave. He’s an assassin for hire, although he earned his bloodthirsty reputation in the Zak’reth war after they raped his sister and killed his family. Tired of killing, he now earns his living doing odd jobs and ferrying cargo from one island to another. The money isn’t nearly as lucrative, which has left his ship in need of repairs and his crew unpaid. (Not that they complain. None can speak, having had their tongues cut out or been born mute.) The promise of gold doubloons, however, has drawn him out of retirement for one last job. Zolin, the High Vicar of the Bazira, wants to hire Sebastian’s special talents. He cares nothing of his target, until he discovers he is to kill the one person who killed so many Zak’reth – Selena Koren. But gold is money, and Sebastian accepts the assignment.

The characters, plot, and subplots are intertwined in layers of complexity and just when you expect the problem to resolve, another twist sends you tumbling into another adventure more heart-stopping than the last. A dead ship, a lone survivor, rotting and corrupted merkind, a bounty hunter, sea scorpions, a blind nun, fortunetelling, witches, a blood dragon shapeshifter, and magic are just some of the intriguing episodes in this book. My favorite involved the whaling community on an island of ice, where frozen dragons, dragon carvings, and an underground library are so vividly described that I felt as if I was actually among the characters during their stay.

Since this is the first book in the series, Bell introduces some characters and plots that are only peripherally involved with this particular story. Here, these subplots serve as background, as well as providing brief interludes to allow readers to catch their breath and be introduced before future titles provide fuller accountings of their stories. Bell also includes a map and a glossary to help orient the reader to the world of Lunos.

The Dark of the Moon is a riveting fantasy, whether the genre appeals to you or not. Selena and Sebastian are both haunted by the past and those they have killed, but how they deal with those memories provides stunning portrayals of how people cope. Reading this story is like wending your way through a cornfield maze or a haunted house. You never know what happens next, but something unexpected is always sure to happen. I eagerly await Shadow Moon Rising, the next book in the series, which is slated to be released in 2018. If you’re brave enough to risk the journey, I think you and your inner pirate will enjoy this voyage as much as I.
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Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar


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