The Night of the Moon Serpent

The Night of the Moon Serpent

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for The Night of the Moon Serpent, hosted by Sage’s Blog Tours.

The Night of the Moon Serpent was first published in 2013 and is the debut novel of Amaia S. Li. It is a fantasy novella, set in Peru and heavily influenced by the country’s history and mythology. The story is intended to be the first part of the First Passage to the World Beyond series but at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

David Luke is initially unhappy when his mother has to relocate to Lima to accept a new job. School is far stricter and he can’t even listen to his iPod in public in case it gets stolen. The locals even warn him to stay away from the Huaca de San Mateo – an ancient religious site next to his school – as they fear that disturbing it could evoke the wrath of vengeful spirits.

While David does not initially believe the legends he soon suffers a strange turn in the presence of renowned archaeologist, Dr Máximo Rojas, and afterwards begins to have strange dreams in which he is attacked by a giant owl. It is not long before his visions begin affecting him while he is awake as well and he nearly drowns at school when he sees a vision of a silvery serpent.

As the visions worsen, David finds himself growing sicker. It becomes rapidly apparent that Rojas needs him for something terrible and even goes as far as to kidnap David’s mother in order to lure him into the Huaca. David follows him in the hope of saving her but does not realise the danger that he will face. Rojas knows a terrible secret about him – something that his mother has kept from him for twelve years – and the time has come for David to learn who he truly is.

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The Night of the Moon Serpent is a unique and memorable novel. The Peruvian setting was very unusual and set it apart from other young adult fantasy novels. I freely admit that I know nothing at all about Peru and so I really enjoyed reading the chapters set at David’s school in which he learned about the country’s history – particularly the Mochica culture. The culture offered a civilization based on an even mix of social advancement and bloodshed. It was a society where children were educated and people worked honest jobs for a living but at the same time people of high standing would volunteer themselves as sacrifices, as nothing was more honourable than giving your life to the Gods. It is a brutal historical backdrop for the novel and really did help to add an intensity to the events happening in the present day.

I also found the use of Peruvian mythology to be very interesting, as it offered a host of creatures and terms that I’d never seen in a fantasy novel before. While dragons and ghosts are common place in literature, amaru and encantos are far rarer. Although these creatures are, in essence, very similar to their European counterparts, they represented an entirely different culture and the attitudes that stemmed from it. I had never heard of a lot of the creatures mentioned in this novel (I even had to Google a few to see if they were actual mythical beasts or the author’s own creations) and therefore simply having the opportunity to learn about these legends was truly fascinating. The originality of this setting really helped to make the novel memorable, as I certainly had never read anything like it before.

While the plot was very fast paced and quick to enthrall, it did suffer from the fact that it was the first novel in an intended series as no plot elements were adequately wrapped up. A lot of issues were raised within this novel which ultimately did not go anywhere. This included the fate of David’s father. Although his fate is inferred with in the novel, the author does not give us a clear explanation as to how precisely he came to be in such a predicament. I assume that this is a point that will be elaborated on in future novels and I am curious to see how it will be resolved.

More offensive was the fact that Rojas’s plan receives no real explanation, thus making him feel like an incredibly 2-dimensional villain. While he does some horrible things within the novel, particularly to David, we never really find out why. We don’t even find out who his accomplice – the tattooed lady in the opening chapter – is. By the time that the novel ended, I realised that I was still unclear as to why Rojas had done anything within the novel, or why he needed David’s help to do it. In a way, Rojas reminded me of Demurral from Shadowmancer as he was a bad man who did bad things but there seemed to be no logical explanation as to why. I expect that this explanation will come in later novels (I did get the impression by the end of the story that Rojas was the monkey rather than the organ grinder) and I really hope that this is the case as he felt like a bit of a waste of villain.

The other primary characters in the story were also a bit of a mixed bag. My favourite was David’s mother, Anna, as she was a very well rounded character. Although she was a protective of her son, her back-story in the last third of the novel revealed that this was not over the case. Her former weakness, and how she overcame it, drew me to her all the more. Miguel was also a curious character and I really wish he’d been in the story more. I would love to have seen more of his Maestro and learned about how their magic worked.

The only character who did not make much of an impression on me was David. He wasn’t a bad character by any regards; he was just nondescript. He did not have any flaws or any personal conflict of note over the course of the novel but at the same time he did not even achieve the level of irritating perfection required to make a Gary Stu. He was just, forgettable – a standard male lead who did not leave any lasting impression on me. As with many things in this novel, the revelations towards the end of the story lead me to believe that he will be more interesting in subsequent installments but he simply did not develop much over the course of this novel.

So, to conclude, The Night of the Moon Serpent is a novel with a very unique premise that draws a lot of influence from the history and magic of Ancient Peru. Its setting is striking and its fast paced story line makes it a very compelling read, but it did feel to be more of an introduction to the series than a complete story in its own right as many plot threads were left hanging. I’m really curious to see how the story will develop in future installments and will certainly be following this author closely.

The Night of the Moon Serpent can be purchased as an eBook on Smashwords.com or a Paperback on Amazon.co.uk

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Blog Tour and Giveaway – Day 4 – Review | The Secret Weekend (Writer) Warrior
    • Kim
      Aug 24, 2014 @ 06:57:18

      You’re welcome. I enjoyed the chance to learn about some Peruvian mythology and look forward to reading the next one in the series

      Reply

  2. writerwarrior78
    Aug 24, 2014 @ 03:10:13

    Thank you for participating in my tour and for the interesting review! –Amaia

    Reply

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