I'm going to have to talk about the events at the end of the previous book, <b>Flame in the Dark</b>, a little bit. If you haven't read that -- sorry. You may want to use the time you were about to spend on this post to purchase that/get it from your library instead.
So, with any of these Soulwood books there are three main threads to follow: 1. The PsyLED case(s) and storylines associated with the team; 2. The developments with God's Cloud of Glory Church and Nell's family; 3. Nell's personal evolution as in independent woman and her supernatural development. These will all intertwine and effect each other -- particularly the private lives of the PsyLED team and Nell's own development. I want to touch on all these briefly to give you a good idea what to expect with this book.
Let's start with God's Cloud of Glory, which gets a lot less ink than we're used to. But when they show up, it counts. It's unclear how much of the church is really in favor of the changes occurring within it -- it's probably not as uniform as I'd been thinking. Which makes sense, any reformation is slow and complicated -- and won't be a straight line of progress, humans are messier than that. Whether this group will actually stumble into orthodoxy is hard to say, and it'll definitely take years. We get to see a little of the pushback to the reforms here, but it's nothing severe. I expect in a book or two, something will happen because of what we see in this book. The Vampire Tree on the Church's land takes a different role in this book than we've grown accustomed to -- and it's probably the most important and intriguing development having to do with the Church in <b>Circle of the Moon</b> (possibly the most important in the book as a whole, too -- time will tell).
We do learn some interesting things about Nell's family and how they acted before Jane Yellowrock and the feds upended everything, too. I shouldn't forget that...
As far as Nell goes, it's been just a few weeks since she stopped being a tree and started being a human-ish person again. As you can see from <a href="https://wp.me/p3z9AH-3OE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the excerpt I posted earlier</a>, things are going well for Nell and Occam, and things are moving quickly on the Mud coming to live with Nell front. But both are bringing their share of challenges for Nell. Her life is definitely not looking anything like what she'd envisioned and the changes aren't easy for her -- she mentions at one point her mixed feelings about coming into the twenty-first century. As much as she relishes some of these changes, none of them are easy.
Nell is forced to confront and re-evaluate her ideas about love, commitment, what it means to be in a romantic relationship. So much of her thinking is still that of a "churchwoman" as she'd put it. She knows other women, other men, don't think of things in those terms and while she's rejected her upbringing, she hasn't yet replaced everything she wants to (she probably hasn't even figured out everything she wants to change).Occam is the best person for her to be involved with right now (the cynic in me wants to say that he's too perfect, but I like him too much to listen to my inner cynic) -- his patience, kindness and understanding are what's going to help her the most now.
I'm not gong to say anything else about Mud -- but I'm a fan. I don't think Hunter hit a false note with her character or any scene she was in. Mud's a great character and knows exactly what she wants in this life (at least for now) and what she needs to do to get it. Primarily that involves manipulating and/or convincing her sister to do a few things -- and Mud's an expert at both of those.
As far a Nell and her powers go? Just wow. If you think the tree thing in the last book was revolutionary, just wait. There's nothing as cataclysmic this time (thankfully -- I'm not sure we readers could take it), but the implications of some of what Nell does in this book that aren't yet known or seen, and the reverberations from them will be felt for a while.
So that brings us to PsyLED. Rick LaFleur wakes up in the middle of a very strange witch circle with no idea how he got there. He'd been called there somehow -- as his cat. There's a dead cat near and Nell picks up traces of vampires in the circle, too. Clearly, black magic is involved -- but how and why, no one knows. It doesn't take long before there are other circles being discovered -- new and made in recent weeks. Rick and some of Ming's vampires alike being called to them. Either of those happenings would be concerning -- but the combination of them is mysterious and troubling. Also, why is Rick being called and nothing happening to the team's other werecat? The questions and mysteries pile up quickly.
Some trouble in Knoxville law enforcement doesn't help, either. Supernatural crimes/events -- things like strange witch circles -- aren't being reported to PsyLED as they ought to be. The FBI and one particular agent (the witch that Nell met last time) are hovering on the fringes of the investigation in a way that speaks of more than mild curiosity. Changes and upheaval in the local vampire government -- Ming of Glass is now a MOC, for example -- feeds into some of the confusion.
It's one of those situations where the more Nell and the team learn, the less they know. Everything points to big trouble, they just can't figure out what kind of trouble -- or even its source. Rick is going to have to explain a lot about things he's previously been reluctant to discuss, for starters. And still, they may not figure out what kind of black magic is involved -- and why -- before it's too late to save innocent/not-so-innocent lives.
This is the <i>best</i> PsyLED story this series has yet given us. Nell running off on her own isn't going to crack this, solid procedure, a real team effort and some quick thinking (and a few lucky breaks) are the key to things working out. It's probably the most exciting story, too. There's a lot of action, there are more guns fired in this book by law enforcement than possibly in the first three books combined. Lainey and her magic, JoJo's computer wizardry (legitimate and less than), Occam's cat and trigger finger, Tandy's abilities, plus Nell's abilities (including offensive capabilities we haven't previously seen) are going to have to work more in general and in combination with each other than they have in the series so far just to keep the team in the game -- but for them to actually close this case and get some answers, they're going to need extra help. I loved this part of the book and want to keep talking about it, but I'm going to hold back. I've often wondered if the team wasn't wasting time in the past -- not this time. Everything clicked for me with this story and I couldn't be happier about the whole thing.
I'm pretty sure that I can't say anything about the people behind the circles without ruining something. There's some real evil afoot, I tell you what. There's also a damaged soul (well, a few of them), some well-intentioned moves in the past that result in trauma and worse in the present, a mixture of aligned entities that don't necessarily have the same ends in mind. You combine those things and you get a lot of damage, heartbreak, and death being dealt. Not only is this the best PsyLED story, it's got the most compelling opponent(s) for the team yet.
I know that Rick has his detractors going back to early on in the Yellowrock books up until his involvement in this series. I haven't checked as much as I should have to see if some of them have come around to him or not. I've never been as anti-Rick as others have been, but he's never been a character I liked. As soon as he and Jane split, I would've been content to never think of him again -- but Hunter had other ideas. I liked him in this role, but I've always preferred everyone else on the team (except Paka), and really hoped he'd be in the background for some time. Yeah, well, that's absolutely not the case in this book. I won't say that this book wholly rehabilitates the character for me -- and I can't imagine that the extreme anti-Rick contingent will be satisfied. But, I will say that it'll be hard for people to not soften their opinion of him after this book. Hunter did a lot of good to his character in this book. For people who liked Rick and/or were positively-inclined toward him? You're going to love this book.
Tandy does a couple of things in this book that intrigued me. Nell's not the only paranormal on this team whose powers are developing in ways that may prove troubling. I wonder if it's a coincidence that these two (and maybe others?) are changing, or if there's another explanation -- they're changing each other, one is changing the other while they evolve themselves -- or is there an outside party up to something? It's also possible I'm reading too much into things.
This is largely an aside for people who are Yellowrock fans. Throughout this book, we brush up against Jane Yellowrock and what happened in <b>Dark Queen</b>, which seems to have happened while Nell was a tree (I think <b>Dark Queen</b> started about the same time as <b>Flame in the Dark</b>, but <b>DQ</b> ended a lot sooner than <b>FitD</b>), and Nell's not really up on what's going on with her friend yet. She knows a couple of the bullet points, but doesn't really have the full picture. According to <a href="http://www.faithhunter.net/wp/2018/12/19/updated-2018-reading-order/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FaithHunter.net's Reading Order</a>, this novel actually happens <i>after</i> the next Jane Yellowrock novel. So, we're about as confused as Nell is. Now, does this impact any of the interaction Nell, JoJo and the rest have with Jane, Alex or any of the vampires in Tennessee? No. But man, it makes me even more curious about what happens after <b>Dark Queen</b> -- I didn't think I could be more curious about that than I was, but man...this book has really intensified all that for me.
Okay, back to <b>Circle of the Moon</b>. I've given the first three books in the series 4 1/2 Stars each. I think this time I have to give in and toss that missing half star to the rating. The PsyLED story was great, we didn't get bogged down in the Church/cult business too much, Mud just made me smile, and while I'm not comfortable with every choice Nell made in her personal and professional life (and a couple of the choices worry me long-term) -- I like the fact that she's making them. I can't think of a single problem with this book, it satisfied every fan-impulse/desire I had, was a step up from previous installments in many ways, and told a solid and complete story that still drives the reader to want more. I can't imagine a Hunter fan not liking this book -- and it's the kind of book that should get her some new readers, too.
<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this. My opinions remain my own and are the honest reactions of this particular reader.</i>