The Moonshawl by Storm Constantine (book review).

When readers take characters or the world they inhabit to their hearts, an author needs to make decisions about the direction to take their work in. Sometimes, as in Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Anita Blake’ series, the characters keep developing and information about the world is added in subsequent novels. The series ends when the author feels that they have no more to add. It doesn’t always satisfy the fans but it is better than following Piers Anthony down the interminable ‘Xanth’ series. What started well has long since run out of steam.


There is always the danger of staleness in this approach. Other writers keep the same world but show different aspects of it by introducing different characters so that a variety of perspectives can be introduced.

When Storm Constantine embarked on the first of her ‘Wraeththu’ novels, she had no idea where it would lead her or how captivated her readers would be by her new race of androgynous people. The first two trilogies developed the culture and were largely set on the continent renamed Megalithica. While she is happy to have fans write their own fiction set in the future she has created, Storm also has other stories she wants to tell, involving the world rather than familiar characters.

Any emerging culture, whether based on the ruins of an old one or starting with no knowledge with what has gone before, wants to make sense of the world they live in. There will be conservatives, who want to cling to the old ways and progressives who want a complete break, to make everything anew, especially if the heritage is deemed to be an anathema. The Wraeththu, of the time in which this is set, have members who were once human. They were incepted and changed as male teen-agers and some have unpleasant memories of the process and the societal upheaval which accompanied the demise of humankind as a race. There was a lot of intertribal conflict. More, though, are being born of Wraeththu parents. To develop emotionally and spiritually, they all want rituals of their own.

The Moonshawl’ is set in the country that has been renamed Alba Suhl. The reader would know it as Britain and the particular corner, Gwyllion, they are in used to be Wales. This country, pre-industrialisation was steeped in mysticism, so blending the distant past with the new future seems a logical development.

The main character, Ysobi, will be familiar to some. He has appeared in ‘The Hienama’ and ‘Student Of Kyme’. As a result of the events in these two books, Ysobi has a number of issues to do with relationships. So far, his issues have ended badly and others have been hurt. By coming to this remote part of the country, he is running away from himself (the Wraeththu use male pronouns since female humans were never successfully incepted). He has been invited here to develop a sequence of rituals to be performed throughout the year which will help make a spiritual connection to the Earth. He doesn’t intend to stay, even though the local people would like him to be their Hienama (a kind of priest).

While some welcome him, Ysobi is treated with hostility by others. He also finds a mystery and a long term feud dating back to the period of upheaval surrounding the coming of the Wraeththu. For harmony to be restored to the land, the events of the past must be unravelled, bridges need to be mended and the characters have to grow within themselves.

There is plenty of action interspersed with introspection and philosophy but the whole comes together with the right degree of complexity. Followers of the Wraeththu mythos will wallow in this addition to the oeuvre, newcomers may struggle with some of the concepts but it is worth persevering. There is no need to have read the other books in the sequence to gain an understanding of the characters. Ysobi is the only real common factor.

Pauline Morgan

February 2016

(pub: Immanion Press, Stafford, UK, 2014. 425 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $21.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-907737-62-6)

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