Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Book Review: The Moon Coin
My Review: The Moon Coin by Richard Due is a gem of a children's fantasy novel that I'm, quite frankly, surprised hasn't been picked up by a major publishing company. Then again, isn't that how most great books start out? The first in an upcoming series, the story is centered around 2 children, Lily and Jasper, who receive nightly visits from their Uncle Ebb, which usually results in presents and tales about The Moon Realm. When their beloved Uncle goes missing, the children decide to investigate by snooping around Ebb's fascinating mansion. Jasper, ever cautious, wishes to heed their parents warnings about not entering certain areas of their Uncle's home, but Lily throws caution to the wind, seizing the opportunity to learn more about the ever mysterious life of Ebb. This mischievous, naive behavior is obviously what causes Lily to be transported to Barreth, one of the nine moons in The Moon Realm. And so this is where Lily's adventure truly begins, as she searches not only for a way back home, but what really happened to her Uncle Ebb?
The first thing I loved about The Moon Coin is the way the story sucks you in. The prologue, titled "Bedtime Tales", introduces us to Uncle Ebb and his obvious affection for his niece and nephew. On this particular night, he brings them each a present-- a green dragon figurine for Jasper and fairy for Lily. His tale that night mostly consisted of telling the children the origins of the dragon and the fairy and revealing their true names. From the very beginning, you get the sense that there is more to those figurines that meet the eye and more to Ebb's tales then simple bedtime stories. The prologue not only ensnared my attention from the first few pages but also gave me a feeling of nostalgia. It reminded me of my own childhood, when my mother would tuck me in at night and read me a story. Or those awful times when I would wake up from a bad dream and she would stay with me until I fell back to sleep. And of course let's not forget about those classic movies that centered around a child and a bewitching story in a book, such as The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride.
I think what sets this book apart from others is the author's ability in creating rich, memorable characters. I absolutely loved Uncle Ebb, even though he only makes an early appearance in the story. His coat with many pockets is a part of his personality that I will always associate him with.
My second favorite character has to be Roan, who is one of the Rinn-- large, cat-like creatures that somewhat resemble lions. I love his bravery while protecting Lily and fighting off the scaramann. His loyalty to his queen, Nimlinn, is commendable, even when she tells him to leave and that his services are not needed. When he refuses to leave her side, she says, "Fools! Greydor will have you all roasted on a spit." Roan's quick witted reply is, "Then I will bring the sauce."
One of the funniest characters that also has a small part, like Uncle Ebb, is Quib, who we meet in the second half of the novel. I don't want to give away too many details, but there is a part where they are "cleaning" the remains off of a freshly killed creature-- very much like what the Native Americans did with the buffalo. Quib loves the job and offered some meat to Lily in which she, "had a terrible time explaining to Quib what it meant to be a vegetarian. He kept saying things like, 'Well, I could spare you a bit o' brains. They're not meat, right?' and 'At least let me ladle on a good heapin' bit o' the grease, eh? No meat in that!'"
Going back to that feeling of nostalgia, there were certain parts of The Moon Coin that reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, yet the story still retains its own elements of originality. And let me just say, that is no easy feat. I've read stories before that seemed like complete rip offs. But somehow Richard Due is able to find an equal balance. While I love completely original stories with their own mythology, worlds, etc., there is nothing wrong with being able to relate it to an older piece of literature, especially if it is done right, as it is with The Moon Coin. So I give Richard Due major credit for that!
My original rating for The Moon Coin was at a 3.5, but what bumped the score up to a solid 4 stars were the beautiful illustrations throughout the story by Carolyn Arcabascio. Even though Richard Due is great with his descriptions and character development, sometimes it is hard to imagine what certain things look like in fantasy novels. Arcabascio's illustrations really did help put things in perspective for me. Without them, I think the second part of the novel would have been much harder for me to get through, which is one of the problems I had with the story.
Now to the issues I had with The Moon Coin. While I didn't have too many issues with the plot, I was a bit confused with certain parts of the story. Like in the beginning, for example. I got the sense that Lily and Jasper were living in a modern setting or perhaps slightly in the future. I was good up until the part when they are in Uncle Ebb's mansion and suddenly there are coral reefs for walls, birdfish, "electrimals"-- a term that is introduced by never really explained. My point is, I think Richard Due had this figured out in his mind but did not translate it into words well enough for the reader. What does he mean by Uncle Ebb and his "many illusions"? Is he a magician? For some reason I just had a hard time figuring out what kind of world Lily and Jasper are from-- a futuristic world with robot housekeepers? I think a little more explanation or background for the setting would have been helpful.
An other part that had me scratching my head was right after Greydor, King of the Rinn, reluctantly tells his wife, Nimlinn, that he is unable to help her get Lily safely back to her own world. Lily is in that room when the conversation is going on. She watches Nimlinn and the others give instructions to others as the battle between the Rinn and the scaramann rages on. A second later, one of Nimlinn's loyal subjects tells Lily that Nimlinn requires her presence. WHAT?? That makes NO sense since Lily and Nimlinn are in the same room together. I mean, I could see if Lily was escorted to another room and then Nimlinn sends someone to get her. I just think it was a poor transition from one scene to another.
While I absolutely loved the first half of the book which takes place on the moon world Barreth with the cat-like creatures the Rinn, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the second part of the story. I was not quite sure what lunamancers were or what the term "peerin" meant. I know the author tried to explain both, but for some reason I had a hard time truly imagining the role of a lunamancer. I was also confused by the people on this new moon world-- I think one of them was described as being as tall as Lily--are they all that same height? Are they little people like dwarves? It felt like the second part of the story moved slower then when Lily was on Barreth, but again, this could be because I had a harder time figuring out this new moon world.
Lastly-- and this is going to be hard for me to say without giving a major plot spoiler-- I felt there was a part towards the end of the story that felt very anti-climatic. I think when readers get toward the end of the book, they will understand what I mean. I really can't say more then that without giving it away!
Overall, The Moon Coin is truly a beautifully written fantasy novel with rich, memorable characters and gorgeous illustrations that brings the Moon Realm to life. From a teacher's perspective, I think this book would grab the attention of children in grades 6th through 9th. But adults like myself will also find this book appealing, especially since it brings back all those nostalgic feelings from childhood. Although I read this story as an e-book, Richard Due has informed me that I am the first reviewer to display the new cover art for the printed version of The Moon Coin! Also, the second book in the series, titled The Dragondain, should be coming out sometime this year. For a better look at the new cover art and more information on the series, visit Richard Due's website at The Moon Realm.