Why I read it: I’m a fan of the series. I made a smart decision to pre-order the ebook for $2.99 and then I got the audio version on a Whispersync special for $1.99 which on any view is an absolute bargain.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Recovering from a shooting, LAPD witch consultant Sophie Ross leaves her job and travels to the UK to search for answers about her childhood. When she encounters a Daoine Sidhe knight of the Dark Court, she becomes entangled in an ancient hatred between two arcane forces.
Barred from his homeland along with his surviving brother knights, Nikolas Sevigny is embroiled in a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear. Only by uniting his people’s resources can they hope to prevail against Isabeau, the deadly Queen of the Light Court. He will do anything and use anyone to return home to Lyonesse.
When Nikolas encounters Sophie, he sees a tool to be used. The insouciant witch might be the key to unlocking every passageway that has been barred to the knights of the Dark Court, even as a fascination for her takes root in what’s left of his soul.
Sophie has no intention of becoming anyone’s pawn, yet the fierce Nikolas is so compelling, she can’t deny the temptation that endangers her guarded heart.
As magic threatens Lyonesse, Queen Isabeau unleashes her merciless hounds, and Nikolas and Sophie become embroiled in a race for survival. Meanwhile, the passion that ignites between them burns too hot to be denied and quickly turns into obsession.
Thank goodness they both know better than to fall in love….
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Other than that the book is set in the UK and follows the European Elder Races, I knew nothing much about the book before starting it. I’ve enjoyed the previous books enough to know that I was going to like it to one degree or another and sometimes it’s fun to see where a story takes me with no expectations (beyond enjoyment) whatsoever.
Moonshadow is book 10 of the Elder Races and book 1 of the Moonshadow series. It becomes apparent throughout the story that the Moonshadow series arc (which I understand will comprise of three books) is about defeating Queen Isabeau of the European Light Fae Court and restoring King Oberon of the European Dark Fae Court to health and, presumably, his rightful place on Earth. Moonshadow, however focuses closely on Sophie Ross and Nikolas Sevigny and restoring a crossover pathway from Lyonesse, the seat of the Dark Court, to England/the Earth.
Nikolas is the Commander of the Dark Fae Army. He and his men were cut off from Lyonesse many decades earlier when Morgan Le Fay, sorcerer for Queen Isabeau, destroyed the only crossover passageway. Over the years, Nikolas and his men have tried to stay alive and find their way back home. By the time the book begins, their number has reduced only to nine. They cannot spend any significant time together because their magic makes them beacons easy to spot when they are gathered and so it has been a very lonely and dangerous life for them.
Sophie Ross is a witch, adopted into a witch family when she was about five years old. She knows nothing much about her history or her family. She has been working as a consultant for the LAPD but was shot three times a few months earlier and was still recovering from the trauma as well as the physical effects of the injury. She is contacted by Dr. Kathryn Shaw (who those familiar with the series might recall is Dragos’ personal physician) whose late father was an English Earl. In a thinly veiled excuse to get Sophie to England and into Nikolas’ orbit, she reveals an unusual legacy to which Sophie might be entitled. With nothing better to do and significant dollars (or, I should say, pounds) at stake, Sophie heads to western England near the border of Wales to see if she can access a magical house no-one has been able to enter for centuries. If she can get inside, the house and the land, and an annuity goes to her.
Sophie, encounters Nikolas early in her travels and finds herself enmeshed in his struggle to return home and his fight with Queen Isabeau. Her own heart is drawn in by a “puck” named Robin (a brownie/sprite-like creature) who had escaped horrible torture by the evil queen. This puts her in the crosshairs of the Light Fae Queen and the Master of her Hounds, Morgan Le Fay.
The plot itself isn’t hard to predict but that doesn’t mean it was at all boring or pedestrian. Sophie is a modern woman, very impulsive and when her dander is up, completely lacking in sense and caution. This means that when she’s angry, she runs into danger without a lot of though (ok, without any thought) and it also means that when she first encounters Nikolas in the flesh, despite being scared of his obvious magical abilities and his equally obvious displeased suspicion of her, she faces off with him. Sophie’s flaw gives plenty of opportunity to sparks to fly with Nikolas and triggers a lot of the action in the story. Perhaps Sophie was a little too accepting of a problem within her which could easily get her killed, but I can’t say I minded all that much because it kept the story moving and it kept me glued to my iPod.
Nikolas is very old skool. He’s not a pig but he is very protective and he’s used to giving orders. He doesn’t have a lot of time (aka any) for social niceties and Sophie is particularly sensitive to his high-handedness. She calls him an asshole pretty much all the time and he is often at his wit’s end in dealing with her blind courage. They bicker and fight in the most delightful way. It is not long at all before they realise that having orgasms together is a much more productive way to burn off the energy they create. But their situation looks hopeless; what future could they have together even if they decided they wanted a future together? Nikolas is fighting a war and has barely any time to invest in a relationship.
While the resolution to this wasn’t a surprise, I was touched by the words used to describe the decision Nikolas made and even though the romance was paranormally quick, I didn’t even mind. The pressure-cooker of their environment had me believing in them very early on. Also, I just plain liked them. I loved they way they bickered and bantered together and I enjoyed their obvious chemistry. I was also smitten (in the way one might be smitten by a cute child) by the puck, Robin. I hope he is a significant part of the rest of the Moonshadow arc because he really won me purely from a character perspective.
What else? I expect the book would have rated maybe a B+ in print. But the audio version was definitely elevated by Sophie Eastlake’s narration. There are narrator/author perfect pairings and the Eastlake/Harrison pairing is one. She transported me to the world of the Elder Races and, especially given all the BS that’s going on in the world right now, I was very happy to go. That it was a story about the underdog fighting an evil regime was bonus icing on a very tasty cake.
I’ll be honest and say I had been a little worried about how Ms. Eastlake was going to go with the UK accents. I have listened to many of her narrations but most all of them have been of US-set books. It was really going to suck if she couldn’t nail the accents. I’m fussy about them and honestly, so many US narrators do a very poor Brit. I needn’t have worried however. She gave Nikolas and his men a kind of hybrid Welsh/Irish accent and demonstrated a number of other regional English accents as well. There was only one shopkeeper who sounded too stereotypically Cockney to my ear and she was barely in the book so it was not a big deal at all.
Ms. Eastlake is able to change her voice sufficiently to deliver a number of different male character voices. Sometimes the differences are subtle but it was always easy to identify Nikolas. I was also impressed with the way she depicted Robin, giving him a kind of wizened, Irish-accented voice (when he eventually spoke).
It is always a pleasure to listen to Sophie Eastlake and I have found it always a pleasure to read an Elder Races book. This was one of the better ones. I am extremely happy to find romance books which transport me away from the shitshow that is the Trumpocalypse. I have enough cold, hard reality looking at the news. Being able to take a break from it all with Moonshadow was a very welcome relief.