Book 1: Naamah’s Kiss
Book 2: Naamah’s Curse
***** This review contains spoilers for the earlier two books *****
The Premise: Moirin mac Fainche has returned to Terre D’Ange from her adventures in the far away lands of the East. She’s found and brought back her lover (now husband) Bao, but while she was away. Moirin’s beloved Jehanne de Courcel, the D’Angeline queen has passed away, leaving a grief stricken king and a very young daughter. The city of Elua is left without an attentive king, and Desirée, Jehanne’s child is a lonely, isolated little girl. In the meantime, Prince Thierry has left on an expedition to Terra Nova for exploration and glory, and hasn’t returned. Moirin sees Jehanne in her dreams, again tasking her with a Destiny. Things have come around full circle and this time Moirin must fix a disaster of her own making. For when Moirin was younger she naively used her powers granted by the Maghuin Dhonn to further the ambitions of Raphael de Mereliot and the Circle of Shalomon. It has consequences Moirin never imagined, but Moirin must make things right.
My Thoughts: Like it’s two predecessors, Naamah’s Blessing is not a short story (this one clocks in at 610 pages), but for its length the story is very readable. I was grateful that the first couple of chapters are ones where Moirin looks back over her adventures, and whenever her past touches on the present, the relationship is summarized. I have a pretty decent memory of what happened in Naamah’s Kiss and Naamah’s Curse but it was nice to have my memory gently jogged without it becoming an info dump.
I felt like Naamah’s Blessing was easing me back into the story, which was good. After all that Moirin has been through, especially in the last book, it was nice for this one to begin back in familiar territory, not with Moirin discovering new people and traveling somewhere on an arduous journey (not that that doesn’t happen, but it happens later). It was nice to see how Elua has changed since Moirin has been away, but more importantly how Moirin has changed. She has an idea of how to comport herself and what people expect of her, and most importantly she is now wiser about how her actions have consequences. If she wants to help certain people, (particularly the king and princess Desirée), Moirin has to take care. There’s some court intrigue and machinations in Naamah’s Blessing, but Moirin is not so naive that she is unaware of them, and I loved reading about this less oblivious Moirin who wisely seeks advice on what to do about the problems she sees. Moirin’s maturity is a big part of what made this a very good third installment in my eyes.
Moirin’s character may be less naive, but she still keeps her open personality and her faith in her gods. As always she consults her diadh-anam which she has as a worshipper of the Maghuin Dhonn, as well as the signals of Naamah, the Bright Lady. Although Moirin wants to stay in Elua and protect Desirée from the ambitions of others and the grief-caused neglect of her father, her diadh-anam calls her away. Compounding that are dream visions of Jehanne that tell Moirin news about Prince Thierry. As before, Moirin follows as the gods will it.
Naamah’s Blessing has two distinctive parts followed by an epilogue. The first would be in Terre D’Ange and second, Terra Nova, where the Nuhautl Empire and the Quechua kingdom reside. Both parts of the story are tied together by Moirin’s task to fix things in Terre D’Ange and to fix the disaster she created in her youth. There are (as there always is in these books), fascinating new people and places where Moirin encounters new cultures. I enjoy reading of the lush new worlds Moirin discovers and about the new peoples. One big theme seemed to be “sacrifice” as the people of Terra Nova worship bloodthirsty gods in ways that the D’Angelines and Aragonians find barbaric. As the story progresses, Moirin learns to appreciate the idea of sacrifice being the price to pay to make things right.
I really like the epic nature of this series and the world building is fascinating. I liked how Moirin’s religion and the religion and cultures of the people she meets are a big part of the story and how the world is an alternative fantasy version of our own. Particularly tickling – having the D’Angelines alter the course of history by innoculating the natives of the Nuhautl Empire from a disease brought over by the Aragonians. But I have some minor problems with the story as well. I’ve commented on this in previous reviews - on one hand it is just part of Moirin’s character to be so faithful, but on the other I never really felt like there was any danger of Moirin making a tragic choice because she just has to follow the path set for her. The only difficulty is getting others to follow along with what the gods have told her. Another problem I had was that although minor characters from the first book return and are more fully fleshed (Balthazar Shahrizai and former King’s poet Lianne Tremain in particular), some felt less so. Bao, Moirin’s husband was one. I don’t know what it is but I couldn’t connect with him. I had the same problem in Naamah’s Curse because he wasn’t in the story very much. Now that he is, he’s still not really there. I found him a cardboard “perfect husband for Moirin”. The other character I had problems connecting with was Raphael de Mereliot, who was completely unrecognizable in this story. There was no satisfying reason for it other than to have him fit an archetypical role, and I was disappointed that there wasn’t more. I think that for the length of the story, I’d like to have seen more in depth characterizations of these two.
That said, this still was my favorite installment of the series. I liked how Moirin’s story was wrapped up in a satisfying way that brought everything full circle and I really liked the growth of Moirin’s character over the three books and how that affected the story. I closed this one without feeling disappointed.
Overall: Probably the strongest installment in this epic fantasy series, Naamah’s Blessing concludes the adventures of Moirin mac Fainche with one last journey across the world. Moirin has learned and become a more mature heroine, and I liked her the better for it. Except for minor complaints about secondary characters in this story and the reliance on deus ex machina, I found this one satisfying.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
The Discriminating Fangirl – 5 stars (out of 5)
Fantasy Book Critic – A++
Dear Author – B (I feel like this is the review I most agree with)