REVIEW x2: Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Andrews:
Other than Magic Mourns, the short story that was included in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology, I haven’t read any of your Kate Daniels series. I’m not sure why Kate Daniels unfortunately flew completely under my radar, but due to my giant, listing TBR stack, I doubt I’ll end up getting to it before I retire from my day job and my children are in college (read: not happening). While I may be late on The Edge bandwagon, I am happy that I jumped on with the second book.
I freely admit that what drew me to Bayou Moon was something in a blurb about William Sandine being a killer who plays with toys and action figures. Being a complete nerd and vinyl aficionado myself, there was no way I was going to pass up a book that feature a hero unafraid to show his less mature self. WHOOO! How little did I realize I hit the nail on the head with that thought.
William lives in the woods between the Weird (a magical world) and the Broken (mundane backwater South). An easy way to describe the Weird is it is a parallel world to our mundane one, but operates completely with magic and the fantastical, paranormal, what have you. Territory and power in the Weird are being fought for by nobles in the Kingdom of Andrianglia and the Dukedom of Louisiana. People like William live between the two worlds in the Edge. Those that are Edgers either don’t have enough magic to be welcomed into the Weird or they are outcasts from the Weird. Take a wild guess at which category William falls into.
William is a changeling, and all changelings in Adrianglia are separated from their families and bred as soldiers. After failing to follow orders, William is cast out into the Edge. I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t read the first book here (and I haven’t but I picked up everything I needed to know from this book), so I’m not going to delve into William’s history too far. His lifetime of being trained as a tracker and killer precluded any sort of romantic or social interaction (along with being told that his attentions would be unwelcome by any female), so he is very much alone in the Edge in the beginning of Bayou Moon. William is approached by the Adrianglian Secret Service to go on a dangerous mission into the Mire, the swamps of the Edge that is between the Dukedom of Louisiana, the Broken and the State of Louisiana. He takes on the mission to try and get revenge against Spider, an agent from the Kingdom of Louisiana that kills changeling children.
Cerise Mar’s family were nobles, but they’ve been cast out to the Mire, and have claimed a huge portion of it for themselves. They may be poor, but the Mar family is large and they rely on each other. When her parents disappear, Cerise takes charge of the family and has to make some tough decisions. The family suspects that their rivals, the Sheeriles, are responsible for her parent’s sudden disappearance. Cerise is forced to travel to the Edge, and on her return, she and William’s paths intersect.
The book borders on epic in its scope; the worldbuilding is completely new and slightly complicated, and the characters don’t stay in one spot for long. However, Bayou Moon doesn’t slack on the development of characters or the story between Cerise and William. William may be a prime fighting machine, but his upbringing has stunted him emotionally and socially, and it’s both entertaining and painful to read as he works out what social nuance means and whether he reacts correctly or incorrectly in certain situations. His growth into a well-rounded person (character? changeling?) takes time and is believable. Cerise’s struggle to take up the family reins and effort to retain the control and respect of her unruly clan is well portrayed. Cerise is sure of herself but knows that she must prove that she can hold the family together. It was refreshing to have a heroine that could hold her own throughout the book and didn’t have quite as much growing to do as the hero. Cerise and William together…sometimes was explosive, but there were a few moments I felt like I was watching some really awkward interaction, and it felt slightly disjointed.
There were a couple of scenes toward the end of the book that frustrated me, but didn’t preclude me from enjoying the final chapters of the book, or the book as a whole. The secondary characters are superb and the tension (both romantic and action-filled) is strong throughout without having to be artificially manufactured. I’m going to pick up the first in the series and I hope that there’s another in the works. B+