Neil Williamson - The Moon King (4 stars)

Neil Williamson - The Moon King

A lunar-fixated fable with quality storytelling and a rich setting

The moon can lend magic to any story, and in this one writer Neil Williamson has literally tethered it to his island city of Glassholm. In this land the months are marked by its wax and wane, and the effect on the citizenry is a sort of mass-bipolar disorder, with the euphoria of the wax matched by the crippling low of the wane.

This cycle has become less predictable of late, however. There are rumblings of rebellion among the normally-passive population, and violent incidents have even begun occurring at full moon when everyone's spirits are usually at their highest. Concern over this has reached as far as the Palace, where engineer Anton finds himself recruited against his will to find a solution.

Williamson has built an interesting world, recognisable as our own but not of any particular time period, and with an understated supernatural edge. It is also interesting in a political sense: Glassholm is a stagnant society where innovation is discouraged and conformity important; yet the glamour of the Moon King is seductive and, on the surface at least, his society appears to function well, which at times makes the apathy of the people entirely understandable. It is only when the autocracy is under threat that the ugly truth begins to show through.

Thankfully, the richness of the setting is complemented by quality storytelling. The Moon King is an engrossing tale, with well-sustained mystery, charm and a tangible sense of impending danger. In a word, magic.

Out now from NewCon Press.

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