Book Review: Faith and Moonlight Parts 1 and 2

Book Title:  Faith and Moonlight Parts 1 and 2

Author: Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Pages: 116 (Part 1), 97 (Part 2)

Release Date: December 2015 (Part 1), May 2016 (Part 2)

Author Website: https://gelineauandking.com/

Purchase Link: Amazon

 

Spoilers.  Duh.

 

Plot:  The plot of Faith and Moonlight is straightforward:  Roan and Kay, seemingly inseparable orphans whose orphanage burnt down, want to become Razors, elite fighters who ‘pierce the veil’ in order to gain supernatural powers from fallen Razors before them.  In order to do this, they enroll in a school called Faith, but their chances of becoming Razors are slim due to their older age (14), since most recruits begin their training as young as toddlers.

That’s it.  That’s the story.  What follows is a series of subplots as to how they accomplish this and the consequences of their choices.

Both Roan and Kay become Razors by the end of Part 1, but they both take morally opposite paths to get there.  Roan trains with hard work and determination, aided by a natural affinity with the veil that doesn’t go unnoticed by an elite group called the Royals, particularly Gideon.  However, Roan will only stay at Faith if Kay succeeds at becoming a Razor as well, much to the chagrin of the Royals.

Kay, on the other hand, is failing miserably, even with the support of experienced Razors Erik, Sabine, and Lillarn.  Desperate, she takes up an offer from Gideon and cheats by stealing a piece of an ancient sword, effectively making her a Razor.  This is where Part 1 ends.

Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 ends, but there really is no plot or end goal in Part 2.  Instead, it’s mostly conflict and sub plots involving Roan’s mundane discovery of what being a Razor really means (tournament fighting for top positions among kings’ guards) and Kay’s struggle with the consequences of cheating.  They diverge their paths, straining their relationship as they find cliques better suited to their talents.  This is where Part 2 ends.

There is supposedly a Part 3, but I’ll discuss it later.

Overall, there really is no main plot in this book – no world to save, glorious battles to fight, friends to rescue, or treasure to discover.  I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of buildup, particularly in second part, and at times the story got a bit boring because the characters didn’t strive for anything outside of themselves.  There is a bit at stake in the story – namely Roan’s fear of his past, and Kay’s violent change in nature – but it’s inconsequential outside of the characters.  The revelation Roan discovers is anti-climactic, and seems an afterthought rather than a focal point.  Also, it turns out that their concern about age was for naught, as it had no effect on either of their outcomes.

The subplots, as strong as they were, don’t make up for a lack of actual plot.

 

Characters:  Roan and Kay are supposed to be the main protagonists – you experience the struggle of becoming and maintaining status as a Razor through their viewpoint.  Unfortunately, while I liked their characters and they defined their personal ambitions early on, they were a bit shallow personality-wise outside of each other.  I never really got a solid definition as to their idioms or traits, or who they were.  They each have thorough backgrounds and history, both on their own and with each other, but I couldn’t differentiate between their personalities.  They acted entirely exchangeable until towards the end of the Part 2.  Unfortunately, the reason for the personality twist in Kay is due to her choice in cheating, effectively ‘forcing’ her to change, rather than a ‘natural’ approach.

Erik, Sabine, and Lillarn surround Kay with encouragement, acting as optimistic, surrogate siblings to help her succeed as a Razor.  While they’re good supporting characters for Kay to have, three is too many, and their consistent pampering towards Kay gets a bit annoying.  Erik is the only one with an actual background, which is strongly written, giving him a bit of history for the reader to sympathize.  While not as much in the spotlight as Gideon, I felt Erik was a solid character whose character continually developed over the story, and that Sabine and Lillarn were dead weight.

Gideon turned out to be my favorite character.  His bold honesty and rigid confidence with Roan is upfront and immediate.  He is so desperate to keep Roan in the Razors that he offers Kay a way to become a Razor, albeit by cheating (whether he knows the consequences is not addressed).  Throughout the second part he stays by Roan’s side, always there to explain things in his cold, not coddling, manner.  He’s a refreshing character that stands out against the smothering group surrounding Kay.

Dreah is the antagonist of the story, but she doesn’t really proclaim this until the second half of Part 2 (I don’t think she’s even a character in Part 1).  In fact, she really serves more as Kay’s foil.  Dreah is obsessed with Roan, which feeds Kay’s jealousy, which fuels the core of Kay’s increasingly violent nature.  However, Dreah is also clingy, obnoxious, and more of a stereotypical ‘mean teenage girl’ than need be.  Her unfulfilled desire for attention and haughtiness almost makes her a character you ‘love to hate’ or a true antagonist, but she lacks any redeeming values to cover the gap.  Not even her backstory was convincing enough to make me pity her, and I sincerely thought she deserved what she got at the end of Part 2.

Essentially, I enjoyed the supporting characters more than the main characters, mainly due to their backgrounds and stark character traits – Erik is loyal to Kay and Gideon is brutally honest with Roan.  Everyone else, unfortunately even the main characters, fall into a fog of blandness which holds characters back rather than develop them.

Setting/World Building:  This was one of the story’s main strengths.  For how short of a story Faith and Moonlight is, it packs a prominent punch in terms of world building.

The setting is pretty par for the course – a mythical land of magic, set in a typical time of fantasy, complete with steel weapons, uniformed soldiers, and mystical architecture.  It fits the story just fine.

The world building goes deep – beyond the characters.  The idea of calling on spirits of dead Razors is well-constructed and gives a sense of history to the land without divulging into a chapters-long explanation.  Several of the characters also discuss things and places outside the school, widening the world a bit without veering outside of what’s important to them.  The main focus stays in the school, but you do get a sense that there is something else beyond the walls.

The school itself is rife with mantras, characters and rivalries (both within the schools and other competing schools), which comes to life during competitions called Ascension and, more importantly, the Ladder.  The Ascension and Ladder both provide a bit of culture to the school and characters, and is brought to life by the characters, who put time and effort into proving themselves to their superiors.  In between the competitions, there’s enough character engagement to build conflicts, all centering on ‘piercing the veil’ which is the crux of their abilities and honor.

There were a couple loose ends – I was wondering if the students study anything other than fighting (history, literature, science, etc.) and also how they earn money to buy the food they eat.  However, it was not enough to draw me out of the story’s atmosphere

Grammar/Misspellings & Flow/Syntax:  Another major strength in this story is the lack of grammatical errors and smooth flow of the story.

I found a couple grammar errors and misspellings, more towards the end of Part 2, but not enough (and too late) to find frustrating.

As for the flow and syntax, Faith and Moonlight is so easy to read that it makes me wish the stories were longer.  The natural engagements between characters, the fluidity of the fighting and piercing the veil, the ease of scene changes, and the overall presentation to the elements of the world make it welcoming to get lost in the magic system, the struggle of Kay and Roan, and the overall environment in which the story takes place.  Nothing is too complex, no explanation too long, no scene out of place or order, and no fight too arduous to lose track as to what is happening.  The writing is pointed and focused, as well as consistent and inviting, making these short stories a breeze to read and move on to the next in the series.

Overall Recommendation: Gelineau and King definitely have a talent for novellas.  Their quick-to-the-point stories, fluid writing, and expansive world-building events and magic make for wishing the stories lasted just a ‘little’ longer, but at the same time get you excited for more of their writing.  Faith and Moonlight isn’t their first story I’ve read, and while it isn’t as good as Reaper of Stone, I do want to find out what happens next and look forward to part 3, even more so knowing that the story will be a short, easy read.  I can only hope that there will be something of a plot, and that Roan and Kay get their share of character development – which they should, given how Part 2 ended.

Unfortunately, is seems as though Part 3 isn’t happening anytime soon.  Part 2 came out May 2016, and there hasn’t been an update on their blog in over six months.  I may be left hanging for a while…

…But I still recommend reading Faith and Moonlight.  While I think the price is a bit steep for such a short story, and that both of the stories could be combined into one novella, I find the world enchanting, engaging, and full of life.  I will certainly be reading more Gelineau and King in the future (although probably not reviewing them here).

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