Catalyst Moon #2: Breach
Lauren L. Garcia
(You can read my review of Catalyst Moon #1: Incursion here)
With the completion of Stonewall’s mission to escort Kali to her new home-slash-prison in Whitewater City, the sentinel and mage have little excuse to have anything more to do with each other, but the feelings that bloomed between them on the road refuse to fade, pulling the two of them into a treacherous double life.
Meanwhile, the Thralls, victims of a spreading epidemic of demonic possession, are not only threatening the physical safety of the kingdom but turning its people against the mages, whom many suspect of being the cause. As for the mages, an escape plot is stirring within the bastion among Kali’s more rebellious friends, giving her only a few short weeks to decide where to place her loyalty, and her hopes for her future.
I may be the only person in the world who actually prefers the first Catalyst Moon book to the second. This is probably because I'm exceptionally picky about my love stories, and the romance is even more of a focal point in this one, in spite of Stonewall and Kali spending more time apart in it.
I’m still rooting for these two; they’re so genuinely sweet and serious about each other that it’s hard not to, but given how thoughtfully subversive the series is in so many ways, I was disappointed by the forced drama of them failing to communicate vital information for inadequately motivated reasons. It’s far from the most toxic of standard romance tropes, and not a disqualifying one on my shelf when I like enough other elements, but still one of my literary pet peeves just for being lazy and tired.
Breach’s deeper exploration of the world and people of Catalyst Moon, on the other hand, takes some of the most fascinating details of the first book and brings them to the next level.
The status quo of the kingdom, from its commodification of magic users, to its caste system, to its assumption that the monsters of its children’s stories are nothing more than stories, is clearly fraying at the seams, waiting for someone to apply the right pressure in just the right place. Well, not just someone. Therein lies the difficulty. It’s going to take a lot of someones to break the old system and build a new one, and much of Breach is about the difficulty of getting enough someones pulling in the same direction. There are plenty of people with every reason to be dissatisfied, certainly, separated to all corners and entrenched in their own coping mechanisms. Many have convinced themselves that the way things are is the right way or the only way. Others fight ardently for their own interests while clinging to their irrational prejudices against each other.
The political side of the story makes for a frustrating read, but in a much better way than this installment’s romantic misunderstandings. The state of the world of Catalyst Moon is integrated much more smoothly into the story than is the case in many comparable fantasy epics, presented through the subplots of a sensibly sized cast of characters, all of them organically introduced and then cinched together in new ways. Breach comes together like a cat’s cradle, weaving together threads from Incursion so efficiently that the process can almost go unnoticed until the interlocking pattern surprises with its elegant intricacy.
Once the forestory at the bastion takes off, it happens quickly, culminating in a tense finale that pulls insistently into book three — a pull I have not resisted.
More on that soon.
Want more Fiona J.R. Titchenell? Subscribe here for personalized updates on new books, discounts, giveaways, and more. You can also join me on Facebook and Twitter, or (best of all) become a patron to gain access to exclusive extras!