Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia (The Catalyst Moon Saga Book 1), Inkitt 2016, £7.99 in paperback and £2.49 in ebook, Website
Reviewed by Alex S. Bradshaw
This story, above all other things, is about love.
Beyond the dedications these are the first words you read when you open up Catalyst Moon: Incursion. On the surface Incursion is a fantasy with overtures of romance, oppression, and a strange new magical threat but Lauren L. Garcia does do a good job of tying all the story’s threads into that theme and I think that the book moves itself above standard fantasy fare because of it.
Our main characters are Kali, a mage, and Stonewall, a sentinel whose sacred duty is to contain and control mages. In what should have been a routine operation transporting Kali from one place to another they are set upon by barbarians: almost everyone else in the group is killed and both Kali and Stonewall are transported many miles away and face a long trek back to the safety of Whitewater City. As this is going on we also follow the stories a married couple in Whitewater City who are mages and two of the sentinels stationed there who are brother and sister.
This is a character driven story so there is less of an epic scope than you might find in similar fantasy novels but as this is the first in a series I can only assume that the creeping evil that is shown here will be explored, along with other places in the world, as the series goes on. If you are looking for a sweeping, epic that explores a wide fantasy world then I don’t think that this book is what you’re looking for but if you want more in depth characters with a story that isn’t relentless dragged on by an overarching evil threat then this book will be a good pick.
As I have said, the characters are well developed and the author uses them well. The story is about love and Lauren L. Garcia has selected a range of characters to demonstrate love from various perspectives and the challenges and excitements that they bring. Kali and Stonewall’s relationship grows and they learn are the star-crossed lovers that find their way into each other’s arms by the end of the story. I thought it was done well without being gratuitous; a slow burn that becomes all-consuming. The married mages demonstrate the strength to be found in the unerring love and support that can be found within marriage and the siblings similarly demonstrate the trials and tribulations of a devoted brother. I think that there was only one example of a character’s emotional turmoil being overly drawn out in that one of the characters repeats the same mournful song over and over again which gets quite frustrating to repeatedly read.
The prose was strong throughout: there was no point during the story that I was left confused as to what the author was talking about and neither did I ever feel that she had been cliche in her writing or written anything too complicated and verbose to bruise it purple.
The author did make the choice to include a preliminary ‘Meanwhile’ or ‘Moments earlier’ in italics in some of the scene changes during the books. I feel that this is worth mentioning as some people may find this immersion-breaking whilst I’m sure many others won’t have an issue with it. For me; every time I read it I read it in the voice of the narrator of a 1970s kids’ cartoon which took me out of the moment and made me feel that the author didn’t trust me to figure out these two scenes were happening alongside one another.
All in all I think that Lauren L. Garcia has written a competent novel to begin her series and I think that in future books she will do some good things with the characters and their relationships as well as explore the world they inhabit and the nebulous threat that encroaches. The characters are all independent of each other and their relationships develop well throughout the book. Overall it is a respectable debut novel and if you are looking for a smooth romantic fantasy to read then I think you should give strong consideration to Catalyst Moon: Incursion.