Children of Sun and Moon by Matt Larkin
(Book 1 of the Skyfall Trilogy)
For generations, the children of the moon have been at war with the children of the sun. So when the Lunar King sues for peace and offers his daughter, Ratna, to a marriage with the young Solar King, the two war-torn civilizations are faced with the prospect of peace–or imminent treachery.
Chandi, Ratna’s handmaiden and a powerful Moon warrior in her own right, is sent to protect her cousin and spy on the Solars. But the years go by and the Solars seem sincere in their peace efforts. But peace is a fragile thing, and when Chandi is asked to sacrifice everything–her new, reluctantly-accepted home, her blossoming romance with a Solar warrior, and her life–for her country, she finds herself forced to choose between her past and her future, her duty and her heart.
In Children of the Sun and Moon, Larkin creates a sweeping fantasy based on a kind of merging of magic (spirituality, religion, ritual, and meditation) and science. He crafts an eastern feel to it, remniscent of movies like House of Flying Daggers or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon–with bright and dramatic exchanges and larger-than-life fight scenes. To that end, I appreciated the way the book sought to develop its theme of individual happiness versus duty, and the price characters paid for looking beyond their prescribed roles. Chandi, Ratna, Naresh, and Landarundun all find themselves in an untenable position of caring for someone they cannot have–not without destroying their lives–and in seeking to break free of the roles they’ve been molded into.
With a bittersweet, inconclusive ending, the book is a clear segue into the rest of the Skyfall series, begging you to continue to find out whether there is a future for the characters who managed to survive the upheavals of the first novel. If you like Kennedy’s Under the Thirteen Moons or Sharon Shinn’s Samaria books, this might be the novel for you.
However, I did end up knocking off a couple canaries. This novel has the scope of an epic fantasy without the requisite attention to detail. Children of the Sun and Moon attempts to bring together too many actors (five important characters with backstories and conflicts) and too many subplots for its 257 pages. The enormous scope of the story forces the narrative to time-skip and leap between events and characters. Even the pivotal events near the end of the story get only a passing mention.
While its scope (and, okay, the cover too) was what had initially attracted me to the book, my question, “how in the world is Larkin going to pull it off?” had a lackluster response of, “shakily.”
More importantly, because of the amount of ground the story seeks to cover, the book ends up telling its intricate, wide-scope story rather than showing it. The characterization suffers and the backstory is often told though passages of narrative info-dumping. If you’re in it for a quick, dramatic, and rollicking tale, this be the novel for you. But if you are the reader who puts equal emphasis on both how the story is told and what the story’s about, you may find yourself struggling as I did.
All in all, this novel is a cheetah stuffed in a cat carrier. I see its spots and its need to run–all carried uneasily through airport security and sent off to the lands of two-and-a-half inedible canaries.
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