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REVIEW: Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

Dear Mr. & Ms. Andrews,

The changeling William Wolf was introduced to readers in your earlier book, On the Edge. On your website, Mr. Andrews states in that book, William "lost Rose to Declan and did not save the day. This book [Bayou Moon] was his chance to be a hero, to get the girl. A damaged hero and a very odd girl, but still."

Ilona Andrews Bayou MoonI enjoyed Bayou Moon, which takes place in the Edge, a strip of land between two dimensions, the Weird and the Broken. The Broken is our world, where there is no magic. The Weird is a magical realm, a mirror of the Broken in which two New World countries, Adrianglia and the Dukedom of Louisiana, are engaged in a cold war.

Bayou Moon begins when Nancy Virai, an Adrianglian spymaster, and her assistant/thug Erwin, arrive in the Edge to recruit William for a mission. William used to be a member of the Red Legion, an Adrianglian black ops army unit. But he was expelled from the Red Legion and adopted by the evil Lord Casshorn Sandine, who met his death in On the Edge. Since the events of that book, William, Lord Sandine, has been employed as a construction worker in the Broken and moping in his spare time.

Back in his Red Legion days, William had two encounters with a twisted, magically enhanced Dukedom of Lousiana spy named Spider. That William survived those encounters means he is the Adrianglians' best hope of defeating Spider and his covert organization of magically enhanced spies, the Hand. Spider and the other members of the Hand have infiltrated a part of the Edge which borders the Dukedom of Louisiana and is known as the Mire. Virai believes that they are searching for a magical item that could tip the balance of power between Adrianglia and the Dukedom of Lousiana, and mean all-out war.

William loathes Spider with his whole heart, since Spider is responsible for the murders of several Adrianglian changeling children (In Louisana, changelings are reviled so much that they are killed at birth, while in Adrianglia, many are abandoned by their parents and given over to the care of Hawk's Academy, the brutal orphanage where William grew up). Because he hates Spider so much, William agrees to infiltrate the Mire, learn what Spider and the Hand are seeking, capture that item, and if at all possible, kill Spider.

Meanwhile, in the Mire, Cerise Mar discovers that her parents have not returned from a ride to Sene Manor, an empty house that once belonged to Cerise's grandparents. When Cerise and two of her cousins ride to Sene, they discover that the house has been confiscated by the Sheeriles, a family with whom the Mars have a longstanding feud. The Sheeriles inform Cerise that the Hand has taken her parents, and they claim not to know the reason why.

Now Cerise and her family will have to fight the Sheeriles for Sene Manor, where there might be clues to explain the Hand's interest in Cerise's parents. But to prove that the Mars have the right to Sene, Cerise must travel to the Broken to retrieve a copy of the deed from her uncle.

Sneaking into the Mire from the Broken, William pays a man named Vern to guide him down a river to the town of Sicktree. Also on the same boat is a girl who looks like a hobo, and smells, to William's discerning nose, like a jar of moldy spaghetti sauce.

Partway through the journey, William and the girl lose Vern to a shark attack. Now the “hobo queen” is William's guide to Sicktree, and he does not trust her as far as he can throw a necromancer-controlled giant eel. But when he realizes the Hand's agents are after the girl, and that after washing off the spaghetti sauce, she smells delicious, William realizes that he has to stick close to her, and that that is exactly what he most wants to do.

For her part, Cerise, too, catches on to the fact that William is more than the spoiled blueblood he first appears to be. Unexpectedly attractive and proficient with a crossbow, William may be dangerous to Cerise's family. Can she trust him, and even if she can, should she risk her heart at a time when the lives of her family members are threatened?

Bayou Moon is darker in tone than On the Edge (One scene in particular is quite violent and not for the faint of heart) but it is still greatly entertaining.

William and Cerise seem right for each other. It was immensely enjoyable to see them begin to perceive they had met their match in the one they first dismissed as “Hobo Queen” and “Lord Bill.” As their strengths become apparent, they grow to admire each other more and more. Both are great with weapons and really respect each other's abilities in this arena. She has a huge family and he longs for family, a sense of belonging and being wanted and accepted, more than anything.

There is some delightful, laugh out loud humor in this book. I caught myself giggling and smiling several times. The novel had a terrific sense of adventure, particularly in the section of the book when William and Cerise were trying to reach Sicktree together, that reminded me of movies like “Romancing the Stone” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The worldbuilding is superb; the Mire comes alive and I felt as though I could feel the humid air and murky water, and see the creatures that inhabited this world, from the Loch Ness monster-like rolpies to the legged eels.

I did catch one major inconsistency, though. Earlier in the book, it was stated and shown that exposure to the Hand's magic makes people sick at first, but later in the story, when many characters encountered the Hand for the first time, this was not the case.

If the world was believable for the most part, so was Spider. I especially liked it when he stated that he became a monster so his fellow countrymen would not have to. It's a rationale that many have used on a slippery slope to evil.

Most of the secondary villains among the members of the Hand reminded me of the supervillains in the comic books I read as a child. On their own they were menacing, but when they gathered together for a big showdown near the end of the book, it was too much to be wholly convincing. The Sheeriles were more interesting villains and I particularly appreciated the multidimensional Lagar, who had a humanity that he denied.

The Mars (Cerise's family) were colorful and lively. They were distinct from one another and I had no trouble telling them apart and remembering who each of them was, which is impressive since there were so many of them.

William's desperate need to be loved and accepted was so intense that at times it seemed a little over-the-top, but it was understandable given how barren his childhood had been, and it made me feel for him. Cerise was so attracted to William that I wondered why the women if the Broken and the other part of the Edge hadn't been, or if they had been but William simply didn't notice because he didn't believe anyone could want him.

Cerise was a wonderful heroine, strong, intelligent and responsible. I loved that she could still be smart alecky with Williams despite all the pressure she was under, and I especially loved the way she struggled with the difficulties of leading her family. Even when she fell apart on the inside, she knew she couldn't show it on the outside, lest her authority be challenged at a crucial time.

The attraction between Cerise and William was potent and the fact that their lives were in danger made me root for them as a couple even more. I wanted them to find some happiness in the midst of all the danger, and I was glad for them when they did.

In the last third of the book, a lot of attention is given to the magical item Spider is bent on acquiring, and to the history of this thing. This came up just as things were heating up between Cerise and William, and romance-lover that I am, I wanted more focus on their relationship and less on the history of this magical item.

[spoiler]Also, for the life of me, I couldn't understand why the Hand held Cerise's father captive, and didn't just kill him outright, or torture him as leverage on Cerise's mother.[/spoiler]

The final chapter and the epilogue have a very different feel from the rest of the story, and as a result, this book isn't as cohesive as On the Edge. The last conflict that came between William and Cerise near the very end of the book felt contrived to me. There is also a plot thread that is left unresolved. To me this was on the one hand this was somewhat dissatisfying, but on the other, encouraging, since I'm hoping for more books in this series.

Though it wasn't a perfect book, Bayou Moon was highly entertaining. I look forward to the next Edge-set book, and my grade for this one is a B+.

Sincerely,

Janine Ballard

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Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

18 Comments

  1. farmwifetwo
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 14:08:52

    I found it was terribly slow in the beginning and didn’t leave enough room for the growth of their relationship, which meant the end got cut off.

    Which has me wondering…. due to the epilogue… are the next books going to be about William and Cerise and their….

  2. Janine
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 14:16:31

    @farmwifetwo: That is interesting. I actually found much of the early stuff –the section from William and Cerise’s first meeting until they arrived at the rathole (Cerise’s family’s home) — was my favorite part of the book. I loved their journey in the boat and the way they slowly got to know each other.

    I do agree though that I would have liked more focus on the romantic relationship later in the book, esp. in place of all that stuff about the magical object and its history. The relationship was just getting into high gear when the focus shifted to the external/fantasy stuff.

    But then this book is fantasy I believe, not romance, and maybe we are coming at it from a romance reader’s perspective. I was highly entertained and really enjoyed reading it, though I do wish the ending had been stronger.

    Re. the sequel — I have no idea. I don’t know if there’s going to be any but if there is, I will read the next one. My general preference is for reading about new characters over ones I’m already familiar with.

  3. SylviaSybil
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 16:20:10

    Yes, there are going to be at least one and I think two more sequels in this series. Edge 3 is out next fall and I believe they may be contracted for four.

    I also felt like the “slow” pacing at first is part of the book’s charm. I can’t suspend my disbelief when characters fall in love too quickly, and the long journey through the swamp gave the two of them time to know and appreciate each other.

  4. Jennie
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 17:15:41

    Hmm. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this author. I’m thinking maybe I need to give her a try.

  5. Janine
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 17:16:42

    @SylviaSybil:

    Yes, there are going to be at least one and I think two more sequels in this series. Edge 3 is out next fall and I believe they may be contracted for four.

    That is great to know since I’ve enjoyed the Edge setting tremendously in both the first and second books. Do you know if Edge 3 will also have William and Cerise as the main characters, or if the main characters will be new?

  6. Janine
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 17:19:20

    @Jennie: I haven’t read her Kate Daniels series but On the Edge (Edge #1) is a great place to start with this series, and it was on my top ten of the year list last year. I think Bayou Moon is a good starting place too, but I can’t be 100% sure since I read On the Edge first.

  7. Rosie
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 18:45:48

    I’m reading On the Edge right now and loving it. Glad to hear Bayou Moon is good … and super glad to see that it’s about William!

  8. Janine
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 18:52:35

    @Rosie: I’m happy to hear you are enjoying On the Edge since I recommended it here at the beginning of the year. I hope you enjoy Bayou Moon as well.

  9. Merrian
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 06:39:52

    I finished Bayou Moon today and loved it. I liked the slow start because it gave William and Cerise not only time to get to know and appreciate each other but for us to see them as a potential couple. I beleived in them. I like the deeper more complex world of magic and culture that is developing in this series and that is a real strength of these authors. I don’t think they write romances as such but stories built around the development of the relationship between the couple. I also really liked how William’s character in this book is true to both his chracter’s origin story and to how he appeared in On the Edge. I also like the thread (which may be I read into them)in these books and the Kate Daniels series about virtue ethics as drivers of our heroe’s choices.

  10. Janine
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 11:59:15

    @Merrian: I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! I agree with you on the slow start — it’s a lot of what made the romantic relationship successful for me as a reader. And I like the world as well, and agree too that William’s characterization was consistent from On the Edge to this book.

    I also like the thread (which may be I read into them)in these books and the Kate Daniels series about virtue ethics as drivers of our heroe's choices.

    Can you elaborate on this? I’m not sure what you mean but it sounds intriguing.

  11. SylviaSybil
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 18:14:43

    @Janine: I double-checked my notes and I do have it typed up that they are contracted for four Edge books. Each book will focus on a new couple, with the previous couples as background characters. Ilona said on her blog that the hero of book 3 might be Kaldar but no promises.

  12. Janine
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 18:51:18

    @SylviaSybil: Thanks for posting this! I’m very happy to hear these details since I prefer series with different main characters in each book to series that follow the same main couple for book after book. It will be interesting to see if Kaldar is the hero of the next one.

  13. Merrian
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 23:27:26

    Hi Janine, Wikipedia has some good words I am borrowing re virtue ethics:
    “In virtue ethics, morality stems from the identity and/or character of the individual, rather than being a reflection of the actions (or consequences thereof) of the individual”
    So William and Cerise can be cold blooded killers and morally good people… and OK with each other about this.
    “For Aristotle, the virtues function more as means to safeguard human relations, particularly authentic friendship, without which one’s quest for happiness is frustrated”.
    This is what I feel I see in the Kate Daniels and The Edge books. Making moral choices ultimately brings people closer together and that living authentically however that is determined is what is important. I sort of think of this as being intentional in the choices we make and how we respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. So Cerise has put her personal life on hold in order to better her family’s lives in contrast with Erian who places his own desires ahead of his family and community's wellbeing. Cerise sees the battle with Sheeriles in terms of what it will cost her family in lives and mourning. Erian's focus on his own pain and suffering – his failure to think in terms of his family and relationships is a failure of virtue and as such is destructive.
    Also ‘authentic friendship' is I often think the chief goal of the romance relationships in most books I read, particularly so in the Kate Daniels and The Edge books. True knowledge and acceptance and trust in the other, delivers the HEA. They have to be in place; so Kate's relationship with Curran is predicated on this. For me the books don't have URST so much as URTKT (unresolved trust & knowledge [of the other] tension) and this makes me happy – don't get me wrong, sex is good! But authenticity which is based in reality, not desires or fantasy delivers the HEA and this can be very difficult ground to travel.
    This is just a quick response but I hope it gives some idea about where I am coming from.

  14. Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews – Review
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 16:01:09

    [...] Dear Author says: [...]

  15. Janine
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 16:11:04

    @Merrian: Thanks for explaining, Merrian. It’s a fascinating subject.

  16. Connie
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 00:21:55

    I have the habit of coming to DA and just browse through the A reviews so I totally missed yours! Last time I had the audacity to mention that you almost didn’t do “On the Edge” justice but definitely this review it was totally on the ball.
    I loved “On the Edge” and what’s more was that through this book I got even more pulled into the genre (and thus discovered Angel’s Blood!) so I’m forever thankful to Mr./Ms. Andrews.

    I think most people will realize after reading Bayou Moon that it wasn’t as good as the previous book in the series, but splendidly written nonetheless. I’m going to point out what I thought in this book that was actually superior to “On the Edge”. I thought the world building was even better than the previous one. This is likely to be the result of the Mire being a fascinating yet scary place…much more than where Rose lived. The creatures described in this book were wicked! It kind of made up for the characters not as extensively developed as those in “On the Edge”. I didn’t feel Cerise was as equal in ability as William but I thought she was quite mature. When I read that the next book was going to be William I really wasn’t looking forward to it. I didn’t particularly like him (I actually like one of Rose’s brother…George? the necromancer) but I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much I liked this book. It is quite unfortunate that the ending totally fell apart but I was prepared for it when I read the other review on DA on this book. Overall it was still a totally worthwhile read and can’t wait for the next one. I wonder who is it going to be about?!

  17. Janine
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 12:21:37

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book, Connie. I agree the worldbuilding was very strong in this book, too. I liked On the Edge a little bit better but had a lot of fun reading Bayou Moon.

  18. Janine’s Best of 2010 List | Dear Author
    Dec 10, 2010 @ 11:55:41

    [...] Moon by Ilona Andrews (also on Shuzluva’s best of list, reviews by Janine and Shuzluva [...]

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