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Conqueror's Moon, book #1 of The Boreal Moon Tale by Julian May

Review by Mike 2004-04-20

Julian May, famous for science fiction series like The Saga of the Exiles and The Galactic Milieu, starts a new series, The Boreal Moon Tale, with Conqueror’s Moon. This time May has chosen to write a classic fantasy story, set in a medieval world where magic is real, and mythical creatures can still be found lurking not far from the human settlements.

Ash from volcanic eruptions has been raining down on the island of High Blenholme for three years, causing the worst famine in memory, as well as a serious disruption in trade. While some of the rulers in the four kingdoms struggle to fill their treasuries and feed their subjects, others are seeing an opportunity to increase their influence. Young Deveron Austrey, born with a wild magical talent, becomes the trusted companion of prince Conrig of Cathra, a man with bigger dreams than anyone else. His goal is to bring the whole island under his own control.

This is more than a tale of Deveron and Conrig though. True to her style May lets us know the minds of Conrig’s allies and enemies as well, and you soon realize that this is a story without knights in shining armor, and with no sorcerers aspiring to become the next evil overlord. The latter is neatly avoided by a magical system that requires payment in pain for each item of magic you master. The more powerful object, the more pain you have to endure. I really liked that approach.

With a fairly standard fantasy setup as far as world-building goes, this book relies heavily on the characters for enjoyment. May has a talent for making you sympathize with (or at least understand) the character you are currently reading about, which is essential for a story based on political intrigue. The plot, centered on a secret military strike, is well paced. There are a few pieces of prophesy adding clues to which direction the story will take, without making it too obvious how it all will end. I found Conqueror’s Moon a well written, but not outstanding, book. I suspect that as time moves on, it will start to blend in with all the other imaginary worlds I’m trying to keep track of.

4 amulets.

The Boreal Moon Tale
Conqueror's Moon (2003)
Ironcrown Moon (forthcoming)

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