Book cover: Faith and MoonlightIt’s Echoes of the Ascended day again today in Bite-sized Books. Faith and Moonlight is the last of the 4 strands, where teenage orphans Roan and Kay fight to claim their place within an elite Razor school. Everything Mark Gelineau & Joe King have learnt about serial publishing comes together here in a highly successful instalment.

 

With the final thread of Faith and Moonlight, we’re woven back into the beginning of the story of the Echoes of the Ascended: Roan and Kay are the final puzzles pieces, teenagers travelling to Resa after the orphanage burnt to the ground.

Gentle Kay lived in the orphanage all her life, growing up with Elinor, Alys, and young Ferran. The four took Roan under their wing, and he and Kay are inseparable. He’s determined to repay his friends for ‘rescuing’ him by ensuring Kay finds a safe haven now their home has been destroyed. They have letters of introduction to Faith, a Razor school, in the hope that they will be taken in. They have only the faintest ideas what that means.

Chronologically, Faith and Moonlight comes first. Reading it last is an interesting authorial choice (and I’m sure it’s deliberate), because we come to it knowing what happened to Roan and Kay’s friends – and with preconceived ideas about the Razors.

It’s a shock to find that Faith is as glorious and seemingly pure as Elinor’s romantic attachment to the legends suggest it should be. The students may wear black leather and white cloaks – always an ominous wardrobe – and have internal hierarchies of experience and ability, but the orphans are welcomed with warmth and friendship in spite of being much too old to apply.

Gelineau & King evoke a sense of history and drama; the school’s architecture and the demanding training environments of the Rose and Ascension were clear in my mind. It’s hard not to call it Hogwarts for warriors (and I mean that in the best possible way), but my initial cynicism that this bright exterior must hide a rotten heart (because we’ve seen what Razors are like in A Reaper of Stone and Best Left in Shadows) was slowly burnt away by Erik’s optimism and Sabine’s support.

Neo fights off Mr Smith one-armed
Fight like Neo = effortlessly kick ass

At the heart of the novella is Roan and Kay’s relationship. A Razor must be able to ‘pierce the veil’ – draw on the spirits of the Ascended to fight like Neo. Roan is gifted, sensing the spirits almost as soon as he sets foot in Faith; Kay spends miserable weeks of frustration as she tries to keep up.

Kay doesn’t belong. She’s not a natural fighter and training doesn’t come easily to her. She can sense the veil, but she may never manage to pierce it – which means she can’t stay in Faith, and Roan refuses to stay without her. While it would be easy to go saddle up my feminist high horse about a story that appears to suggest that a girl isn’t as good at a boy at something, there are far too many female Razors in evidence for me to be that wrong-headed. One of the things I love about Aedaron is how egalitarian it is, and Faith is no exception.

Perhaps Kay genuinely doesn’t belong – not everyone can be a Razor and honestly, Elinor and Alys feel like more natural fits for the school, at least in terms of martial prowess. Kay isn’t a bad ass; her desire to be able to defend herself and her friends is natural, but possibly misguided. But it’s also clear that Kay doubts herself, and desperation feeds her frustration. It’s easy to believe that she could learn to pierce the veil – it’s just not yet clear what it will take.

Faith and Moonlight works because the world of the school is so well-realised, and the students are charismatic without quite succumbing to archetypes. The focus is kept nice and tight, allowing the narrative to explore the orphans’ motivations and inner doubts. There’s no big climax here; it’s a perfect first instalment with a brilliant hook at the end that left me dying to rush on to the next book.

My head canon is exploding in every direction, speculating on Kay’s future, the darker side of Razors and  how (if) our timelines and story threads can converge. Faith and Moonlight is good in its own right, but its brilliant as a first step on a new journey. This is what serial publishing should be – less epic in scale but still high stakes, focused and emotionally satisfying. Bravo.

 

****

Faith and Moonlight (Echoes of the Ascended | Roan and Kay) is available now, as are the other 3 first instalments in the Echoes of the Ascended collection (A Reaper of Stone, Rend the Dark, Best Left in the Shadows) and their sequels (Broken Banners, Skinshaper, Civil Blood).

I received a copy of Faith and Moonlight from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

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