Review: The Naked Moon by Nicole Kelleher (2022)

Heart and Hand, Book #3

Heat Factor: She’s a slowwwww burn folks

Character Chemistry: They’re fated mates, but they spend the majority of the book at odds

Plot: Princess Anwyl is on a quest to bring pijala trees and pihaberries to different lords in order to protect the people from brainwashing. She’s also on a quest to find a husband—but she’s already learned that she’s destined to be with a dark haired man with blue eyes who affects her like no other. Warin is that man, she’s pretty sure; but he acts like he can’t stand her. Plus, a LOT of other stuff.

Overall: This book is an epic quest in a series, and it is LONG and complex.

I have to be honest—I have neither seen or read Lord of the Rings. I’m alive in our present time, however, so I am aware of the epic quest and bonds of brother and sisterhood and magic and mystery, etc, that LOTR entails. If you like long, drawn out books of imaginary realms and fantasy, let me tell you—this is exactly that.

It took me a pretty long time to figure out what was going on in this one—it’s the third in a series, and I’m fairly positive that had I read the first two I would have been perfectly fine, but this world building is complicated. Also, I read this on my phone and there are several very handy maps that I would have liked to flip back and forth to orient myself better—so I think I’d have had a much easier time reading a paperback. 

Essentially, we’re dealing with an imaginary realm with royalty and vastly different cultures and alliances. Princess Anwyl is like a Renaissance woman—she’s kind of like what ADHD would be if it were a superpower. She can deep dive into any interesting subject matter and get really good at it, and then moves on to the next thing. So she’s a skilled warrior, potions expert, horticulturist, historian, negotiator, and emissary. Warin is the younger son of a Lord and is part of a “guard”—so he’s kind of a knight, I guess? Anyway, he’s supposed to protect Anwyl and he’s sort of a rake. 

Anwyl is on a mission to deliver pijala trees to all these different Lords because consuming their pihaberries helps protect people from mind control. Apparently there are bad people who want to do that. (Lord Bowen?)

There are many plot layers here—on the romantic side, Anwyl had her future foretold and is meant to fall in love with a dark-haired man with blue eyes. Warin had HIS future predicted but wasn’t informed of it. The woman who predicted his future saw that he would only live a short time so she made sure he’d experience a lot of pleasure and experience great luck. Their romance is built on Anwyl’s sadness that Warin is determined to push her away and be mean to her, and Warin feeling complicated about Anwyl and not giving her much of a chance.

Then there’s the world building. Since this is book three, I went into it missing just a massive amount of backstory, so it kind of ended up feeling like I was just aware that there were pretty bad people out there killing and torturing people, and a lot of subterfuge, but I struggled to track exactly what that was all about. In THIS book, Lord Bowen wants to marry Anwyl and also wants to destroy Warin’s kingdom. So he does a ton of really complicated plotting (they imprison the wrong Lord Bowen…he takes over a ship and poisons everyone on board so they can manipulate everyone and set up Warin’s kingdom as the “bad guys”…etc) and waits for his chance to kidnap Anwyl. 

There’s also the set up for what I presume will be the next novel—so there’s this mystical goddess who’s getting involved in everyone’s business and this is all very tied into what all these kings/queens, sorceresses, etc are doing, but apparently it’s also very separate and not very understood?

The setting and general vibe of this book is very lush and easy to fall into. And, although I am kind of stumped when it comes to summarizing the plot here in a coherent way, it was really intricate and well done. What I can easily say is this: start with book one, and just be prepared to fall into the world this author has built and get carried away for a really long time. It’s complicated, long, lush, slow and then gripping, and very much the ticket for readers who like to disappear into a mystical world and daydream. Just don’t plan on summarizing it for anyone in less than an hour.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

[Full series here.]

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