First, a confession
It isn't a big shock to anyone that knows me when I say I'm not fond of the genre known as`Romance.' A book can be deftly written and have a great story, but it would still be hard for me to sit down and read one. Sandi Layne, a friend of mine that I've known more than a few years now, is primarily known as a writer of Romantic fiction. Since her books rarely have occasion to blow things up or have massive battles, I've been a little hesitant to read one of her tomes. Even with the knowledge that she is a good writer that can weave a solid tale.
That is until she sent me a book called Captive Irish Moon.
Out with the old
This book included a look back at history. It is set during the 9th century when the Christian church was making inroads in to northern Europe and the world was going through many great changes. The book was the tale of two refuges taken by the Viking horde: Charis, the pale healer from a small Irish village and Cowan, a Christian warrior that finds another life among the Vikings.
This book surprised me. It wasn't all about the romance or even the historical details, but also about spirituality and how humans deal with change. The book had many dark moments that reflect the times, woven with the idea that people can still survive even the worst events. It was also a story of how God can use people even when they desire nothing of the sort
In addition, Captive Irish Moon had battles. Some really cool battles that I enjoyed very much.
I wanted a sequel to the book, so the adventures of the main characters could continue. Alas! That did not happen.
Several years passed and Ms. Layne put out the word she was working on a Viking Trilogy. The first of which would be titled Eire's Captive Moon. This would be a rewrite and expansion of the previous book, now with a good publisher. Before the book was published, I had a chance to read an Advance Reader's Copy.
In With the New
In reviewing the new and expanded version, I wanted to go through and point out where the book has changed and where it hasn't. Unfortunately, outside of the new Prologue (Which shows how Charis came to be at the small village in the first place) I can't tell you the changes. I don't have my copy of Captive Irish Moon with me and it has been at least a couple of years since I read it. Therefore, that plan is out the window. I believe this book has a bit more depth than the first novel, with revisions that add more to the characters and place, but I could be wrong. My mind has always been odd. I can remember details of something I did at five years old but ask me what I had for dinner last week and I'd just nod and smile knowingly, without a clue of what I ate.
However, I must say that everything I thought about the first book still exists in this new edition. It is a great story with real characters that come to life on the page. The world of the 9th century Irish and Viking cultures are presented in a way that isn't dry or boring. The battles are still great and worth the price of admission alone. It isn't hard to care about the main characters, especially as the reader experiences life with them. Yet, the book isn't about the battles, the Irish or the Vikings, or even about the protagonists themselves.
The core of this book, although it is a fictional piece set against a historical background, is the idea that Christianity isn't a religion aimed to put people in chains. It is a belief system that aims to free these people from whatever situation they are in, often in unexpected ways. Charis and Cowan both have their lives shattered. The pieces of their old existence are gone, swept in to history like grains of sand going out with the receding tide. This doesn't mean that the main characters stop living, but it does mean their perceptions of life need to be adjusted. Christianity helps with that, helps every person to deal with what life has handed instead of living for what was lost. That, I think, is the core message of Eire's Captive Moon.
A complete package
Of course, the battles, the love story, the well-researched historical era, and the characters help bring this message to life. IT is a great piece of fiction that everyone should read. In fact, I'd say that this book reads more like a great fantasy epic than a typical piece of Historical Fiction. It doesn't have that boring and dry recitation of details I've come to expect from that genre. The details are there, but they are part of the world as a whole. We aren't forced to be at ringside while the author tells us all the history she has researched. She also doesn't try to lord her knowledge of the period over us, as if the readers are some kind of uncouth barbarians. The truth is contrary to that idea. The writing style of this book is warm, friendly, and inviting. It feels more like a Brandon Sanderson novel or something by Brent Weeks. Since the author is a woman, it is great to see these events from a female point of view. So many of the authors I've read recently are male, so it is a great change of pace.
The end is a new beginning
As you might have gathered, I enjoyed the ride Erie's Captive Moon takes the reader on immensely. I do admit that I am biased, having personally known the author for well over two years now, but I am not someone who would say I like something I don't. My experience with Historical Fiction hasn't been the greatest, but this story proves that a detailed rich view of history can be combined with a great story and realistic characters. This is the first of a trilogy, so I am looking forward to continuing to travel through the 9th century. It is almost as if I have a little blue police box of my own, controlled by a slightly mad and gloriously insane author. I expect this great trip to the past to continue and can't wait for the sequel.