Monday, February 24, 2014

Here Be Dragons


Moth & Spark by Anne Leonard : A Review

I've complained about the lack of female authors in the fantasy genre, and how testosterone centered a lot of the books can be, with women that seem to come in a few distinct (cliched) categories. So when we got a chance to review a new fantasy novel by a female author, I couldn't say yes fast enough! One of my favorite things about Anne Leonard's debut novel, Moth and Spark, is that it is a single novel. A stand alone book. Not yet another long-ass fantasy series I will start reading, and be reading for the next 15 years (my biggest complaint with ASOIF series.. I love it, but it was 1999 when I started... I got tired and gave up... till he's done of course.) 

So I was excited when I sat down to read this (and the gorgeous cover didn't hurt! I know they say don't judge a book by it's cover, but it's hard when the cover is so pretty!)

Click through to see what I thought!

(This review is spoiler free.)


You should definitely check out our interview with Anne Leonard herself, and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Moth And Spark here

First of all, dragons.


I won't lie, I was instantly intrigued by the prologue. A mysterious dragon rider with a purpose, a young prince. You immediately start wondering what's going on with the dragons, who is Corin, and what on earth the deal with Tam is. And, like Wench Angela said, there was a map! We love books with maps. More details to sink your teeth into! 

Moth & Spark was relatively easy to get into and to keep track of. Often, I find myself struggling to recall names of people and places and how they all relate to each other in fantasy novels. It's another problem readers come across in high fantasy series, the endless web of story arcs and how they all interconnect with one another. It can be exhausting if you aren't in the right mood. And you can spend a lot of the latter installments scrambling through maps and indices trying to recall information so things make sense. Thankfully, that was not the case with this book. 




Anne Leonard proves that you don't have to write endless installments of a series to set up a convincing background for your story. From the geography, to the politics, to the state of current relationships between the different factions in power and how they impact the story and the characters, it's all explained (gradually) to the reader without being unnecessarily lengthy. Not to mention establishing a social structure in which all our players are entangled. 

I really enjoyed the flow and pace of the story as well as the wonderfully vivid descriptive details in the book. There were moments in the book where I felt like I had actually seen the places, the buildings, the dragons, everything, with my own eyes. 
".... looking down at the tiny roads and houses, the curving rivers, the distant roundness of the horizon. He could see the wrinkles and folds of the land and the growing things in a hundred shades of green. The rain clouds lay behind them, slowly moving dark piles of wool. Ice crystals sparkled where rain on his jacket had frozen. The pleasure of this flying was more intense and stimulating than anything he had ever experienced. No wonder dragon-riders were arrogant. How could they not pity and scorn the earthbound? {{snip}}Everything was a marvel: the amazing silky hardness of the dragon's scales, the iridescence of it's wing membranes, the swift steady flaps with which it flew."
Now, the thing we didn't know about the book, was that it had a healthy dose of romance. I have to say, I kinda loved that. Rarely do we read fantasy novels where the romance is actually a central part of the book. But it was in Moth and Spark. It was a sweet love story, between two characters you genuinely like, on their own and together, in perfect balance with the fantasy element in the story. While I tend to have reservations with whirlwind romances and related storylines, I found their story believable for how young and different they were. Their journey and adventures together in this book were very much a partnership. And the male and female protagonists both have POVs, which is a refreshing change!

I also think there was just something about the characters, something simple but undeniable, that made you root for them. Not necessarily as a couple, but as individuals. Corin's very real fear of what he might find out if he investigated his lapses in memory, Tam's fond memories of her upbringing and her father and her thoughts on the things she observes at court, and the fact that they both weren't at all perfect, all these things made the main characters very relatable to me. 

Can I just add, I loved that their first meeting was in a library! A fantasy of mine. And it played out so wonderfully. With him impulsively asking her to dinner and leaving her with a "Don't answer now. Think about it."





Without giving too much away, wizard assassins, dragon riders, creepy superstitious stories making the rounds in the realm, mercenaries, murder in a castle, drama at court, and a whole lot of other magical elements to do with our protagonists, there's a lot to keep a reader interested. 
"There were stories if huge white wolves creeping down from the mountains and slaughtering sheep by the dozens, of goblins, of two headed calves that could speak, of witches laying curses and shadow-stealing, of necromancy. {{snip}} Yet sooner or later the talk turned to whispers of corruption, of savagery, of a violent unnatural world. Spirits and demons walked the earth, fire springing up in their footsteps, women miscarrying when they passed. Wraith lights led travelers astray and horses refused to ford familiar streams. Dogs howled and snapped at nothing."
I found this an invigorating adventure, perfect for days when you just want to curl up with a book and a cup of tea and, for a short while, maybe escape to a world where dragons still fly, magic still exists and adventure lurks around the corner in an old castle at night. And sex!! Where the woman isn't some naive, blushing flower being seduced by the worldly, womanizing prince and doesn't know what she's doing or getting into until the big manly man shows her the world. I will definitely be reading whatever else Ms. Leonard will be writing. It's hopeful reading a book by an author who doesn't go with the tired and expected in a genre.



This Wench Rates It :









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