Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty is a dark YA fantasy thriller with a fascinating mythology and complex characters, but the pacing and the mystery leave a little something to be desired.
The highlight of the novel is the utterly unique mythology and detailed world-building. Catrin’s society is built around the worship of the sun, and she is the ward and employee of the architect currently in charge of the decades-long construction of the Sanctum, a temple that is at the heart of every town. Despite the setting being loosely medieval, Cat is thankfully both capable and respected in her job of inspecting the scaffolding to ensure the workers’ safety.
Yet, within this city of the sun, Cat suddenly finds herself with preternatural abilities apparently granted by the moon — abilities that will label her a heretic if anyone discovers the truth. Readers will be drawn into this intricate world and eager to learn more about Cat’s mysterious gifts, but the descriptions can be a bit dense (especially regarding the layout of the Sanctum). However, the narrative does settle into itself a bit more as the story progresses, and Beaty’s writing features some powerfully evocative turns of phrase.
In fact, Blood and Moonlight was initially a standalone, but is now being developed into a duology — and it would have benefited from being written as one. This would have allowed the mythos to be revealed more slowly and naturally, giving it room to breathe so that Cat doesn’t have to immediately accept anything she learns, no matter how surprising, as well as resolving some of the pacing issues with the mystery element.
The mystery centers around a string of brutal murders, which Cat is drawn into investigating due to her newfound talents. But though it’s billed as a mystery novel, there are no real clues that gradually piece together to reveal the answer. All readers have to go on are the insights of the detective, or “venatre”, Simon, who is presented as an expert in what we now call criminal psychology.
His inferences come without evidence or explanation, so readers (and Cat) just have to take his word for it. Cat also jumps to conclusions, and leaps from suspect to suspect at the drop of a hat, especially toward the end, creating an erratic reading experience.
The detective, Simon, is also the main love interest. Though he can be a bit patronizing, the developing relationship between him and Cat is captivating. The air between them always feels charged, both because of the secrets between them and their undeniable attraction.
Actually, nearly every character in this story has secrets, and a complex (usually tragic) backstory. Beaty did not skimp on character development any more than on world-building. Among other things, several characters experience, or have had experience with, mental illness. Though society at large holds period-typical attitudes towards them, Cat, Simon, and a couple others take a more progressive, empathetic view.
The author’s note further explains that Simon’s fictional hometown of Mesanus, which welcomes people with mental illnesses and cares for those whose families have abandoned them, is based on a real place — Geel, Belgium — whose compassionate practices date back a thousand years.
Overall, Blood and Moonlight is a compelling read that falls victim to its own depth, ultimately feeling a bit cramped and rushed.
Blood and Moonlight was released on June 28, 2022. The publisher provided a digital galley for honest review.
In Erin Beaty’s fantasy mystery-thriller, Blood and Moonlight, an orphan with a secret, magical sight gets caught between a mysterious genius and the serial killer he’s hunting.
Rising above the city of Collis is the holy Sanctum. And watching over its spires is Catrin, an orphan girl with unique skills—for she alone can spot the building’s flaws in construction before they turn deadly.
But when Catrin witnesses a murderer escaping the scene of his crime, she’s pulled into a dangerous chain of events where the only certainty is that the killer will strike again. Assigned to investigate is the mysterious and brilliant Simon, whose insights into the mind of a predator are frighteningly accurate.
As the grisly crimes continue, Catrin finds herself caught between killer and detective while hiding her own secret—a supernatural sight granted by the moon, destined to make her an outcast, and the only thing that might save her and those she loves from becoming the next victims…
what’s the age rating for this book? i love romance but i am not a fan of *spice* 😭
Blood & Moonlight is YA – no spice! 🙂