The stubborn, spoiled, favored granddaughter of the Devi goddess Astoreth, Moreva Tehi has failed to perform her sacred duty and now she must be punished for her transgression. Temporarily banished from Temple life, she is dispatched to Mjor—a backwater village in the Syren Perritory—to assume the roles of custodian of the landing beacon as well as the spiritual leader and commander of Astoreth’s garrison stationed there. In this perilous place of wild beasts, outmoded technologies, and harsh seasonal change, a fragile peace exists between the distrustful hakoi and the hated Devi, held together by an iron-clad Protocol—whose laws, if broken, could lead to war.
She will discover an ally in the kindly village healer Hyme and a dangerous adversary in Kepten Yose, her subordinate. But the gravest threat to Tehi’s future is the Mjoran chief, the charismatic, golden-haired Laerd Teger, whose elusiveness and cool disdain the Moreva finds both infuriating and fascinating. For it is he who will impel her to break her most sacred vows and seek out the dark secrets of her gods and her world, setting them both on a course that can only lead to damnation and death.
Cover art usually isn't mentioned in the course of a book review because (let's face it) most are fairly unremarkable. But the blue-faced, red-clad, white-haired, face-tattooed alien figure on the cover of The Moreva of Astoreth provides an unusually compelling visual that invites potential readers to dive in just to find out more about her world.
Obviously, this is a fantasy piece. Just as obviously, it revolves around a powerful female protagonist. Readers enter a dark world where priestess/scientist Moreva, banished from her goddess grandmother's temple for a year for neglecting her sacred tasks, embarks on a path that does anything but support the demands of a priestess position.
The first thing to note about this particular journey is that it creates a full-faceted, complex world. No light hand on creating its setting means that no depth is sacrificed in the interests of presenting swift action (though a quick pace is also one of the strong points of The Moreva of Astoreth). Such depth necessarily requires length; so those seeking a quick leisure read will want to look elsewhere. Time is taken to build setting, culture, and characters; but the pay-off is a vivid saga powered by the character of Moreva and her struggles with social issues familiar to modern Earth, as the mixed-race heroine struggles to find a place in her world.
While those who eschew smaller details (such as a protagonist's daily routine) may wish for a faster pace, the joy and strength of The Moreva of Astoreth lies in its ability to take these carefully-laid foundations and build them into a sweeping saga that fantasy and sci-fi fans will find absorbing.
Think Andre Norton to gain a feel for how the setting of this alien world works to support the creation of a protagonist who vividly interacts with it, testing the limits of her personal, spiritual and scientific boundaries with encounters that include romance, political intrigue, and social issues. All these facets are wound into a scientific pursuit that could threaten everything.
The Moreva of Astoreth is especially recommended for genre readers who want their characters, settings, and plots carefully and firmly cemented with a sense of place to support the greater goal of a powerful story that becomes hard to put down.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews