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    Review of DARK MOON DEFENDER by Sharon Shinn

    Berkley/Ace, October 2006

    Fanatic followers of the moon goddess are actively hunting down and murdering mystics, and the King and his Riders can do little to stop them. The people have no particular use for mystics and the priestess of the moon goddess has been preaching against them convincingly. King's rider Justin is sent to investigate the monastery where the Daughters of the Pale Mother are headquartered. Still, actually getting information about the cult will be difficult.

    Ellynor dreams of finding a middle way between the constraining rules of her culture and independence. When her cousin falls for an inappropriate man, Ellynor joins her in becoming novices with the Daughters of the Pale Mother. But while Ellynor has plenty of respect for all goddesses, her primary faith centers on another goddess, the Black Mother, Goddess of Night. When she is accosted by a drunk nobleman, Justin rescues her--and the two begin a relationship that is forbidden both by the rules of the Daughters and even more by the rules of Ellynor's culture and family. Since Justin is not from her people, her relatives are bound to rescue her, whether she wants it or not. And they won't stop until either they, or Justin, are dead. For Ellynor, who loves her family, neither is acceptable.

    Author Sharon Shinn (see more reviews of novels by Shinn) creates a compelling fantasy world. Aside from his loyal Riders, the King is weak and has no male heir. The nobles are restless and looking for an excuse to rebel--and the King's support for the hated mystics gives them just that. Conflict with Ellynor's clan just might be the final blow to the hopes of the mystics and of the King.

    Shinn does a nice job describing the magic. Ellynor's powers, in particular, and the mythology of the Black Mother, are compelling and emotionally strong, as is Ellynor's impossible dilemma of falling for the wrong man.

    I would have liked DARK MOON DEFENDER to have taken a bit higher-level look at the political situation and the ramifications of Justin's and Ellynor's decisions. Making the King's opponents a bit more three-dimensional and sympathetic would have helped, I think, make the story even stronger. From a romance perspective, I thought that the resolution to Ellynor's dilemma was telegraphed too obviously, and delivered with almost anti-climactic ease. That said, however, DARM MOON DEFENDER is a hard book to put down, delivers both exciting action and a high emotional charge, and is set in a wonderfully strong world. Shinn's writing sucked me into the story and made me care about the characters.

    DARK MOON DEFENDER is a fantasy story, but it will appeal very strongly to romance readers as well as the romance plays at the very center of this novel.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/21/07

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