Monday, July 20, 2015

Fantasy Novella Review: Mourning Cloak by Rabia Gale

I have been reading a lot of books for a review program through work, but on the sides, I've also found time to squeeze in a few other books (still working on Six of Crows), but it's basically one chapter at a time.

So, the beautiful novella enters the room.



Quick reads with an interesting plot thread, fully developed characters, and intricate worldbuilding: is it possible?



I read Intisar Khanani's Sunbolt a month ago, and I loved it so much that I encouraged (read:coerced) everyone around me to read it*. Alas, the sequel is not out yet . . . so in the meantime, I obtained a free copy of Mourning Cloak, by Rabia Gale. (Which I discovered thanks to following Khanani on Goodreads). Both of them are fabulous fantasy reads by independent authors, and you should definitely check them out.

This novella is currently free ( (July 2015 only)–use code SSW50 at checkout!) on Smashwords

The Mourning Cloakby Rabia Gale


Based on the cover, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect . . . erm, darkish steampunk? A fairytale fusion?

I was partially correct: Mourning Cloak is a seamless fusion of fantasy and sci-fi, with a rich world and complicated, flawed characters.

Mourning Cloak is the story of "former chosen-one," Kato Vorsok. He tends a bar, keeps a low profile, and he wants nothing to do with the god who deserted him, or the past that betrayed him.
But then a wounded mourning cloak-a winged demon creature who can turn to mist or pass through walls-shows up on his doorstep, and she knows his name. Normally, Kato would have killed this creature without a thought, but she knows too much, and he follows her out into the night.

5 Highlights:

1. Kato. Flawed, angry, bitter, his character jumps off the page. He is an interesting premise in himself: a hero "chosen one" who failed** to deliver a victory, who survived and left his faith and friends. Of course, like any good story, Mourning Cloak isn't quite that simple. Kato has a fully realized character arc, and I was rooting for him all the way.

2. The world/setting, Highwind, is revealed in fascinating glimpses: a hospital, "cyborg" style metal implants, prayer magic, deserts and golems. Seriously, there is a lot of stuff that effortlessly slips into the author's narrative. I want to know more.
3. The prose. Where have all of these lovely wordsmiths been hiding? Rabia Gale has an elegant, poetic way of writing sentences and stringing phrases together, which made Mourning Cloak so fun to read.

4. The plot. This sort of ties into #1. Without giving away too much, I can say that the plot twist was established early on, but it still delivered, and that every detail turns out to be important. Cryptic, much?

5. The supernatural element. A lot of steampunk novels deal with the friction between "science and machines" and either religion, tradition, or faith. Rabia Gale didn't go for that easy pass. Instead, it's ALL present in her world. There are priests with prayer magic, mechanical implants, monsters (both supernatural and man-made), and they all exist in a world that employs wards, charms, and medicines. The conflicts are not so clean cut and obvious.


Honestly, my only complaint with this novella was was the switching first person POV. I don't mind switching first person POV***, but when it switched from Kato's perspective to the mourning cloak for the first time, I was confused. It startled me out of the story. I feel like some sort of divider, or marker, was necessary to show when the POV jumped. Granted, their inner voices are quite different, so I caught on fast, but still . . .

Summary:

In short, this is an action-packed fantasy novella with a rich world and interesting characters. The writing is strong, and I will definitely buy the sequel.

4.5 stars out of 5

BONUS: The entire novella was inspired by the name of this glorious butterfly:
Taken from the Author's Pinterest page

Footnotes:

*Sunbolt review to come, I just need to sort out my feelings so it isn't a thread of reaction gifs. 
**Naturally, his failure turns out to be pivotal.
***I'll give any interesting POV choices a pass if the author does it well. I love grammar, and order, but I also like it when someone rocks the boat ;)

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