Fantasy author Tess Noncoiré’s latest novel is her biggest success yet, but all is not going smoothly for her. She’s still mourning her late husband, Dill, who died in a hotel fire two years ago after a brief marriage. Then there’s the pesky issue of demons. Right after Tess was widowed, a mysterious fever led her to a secret Sisterhood dedicated to fighting demons. Tess never fit in and was asked to leave, but the training has stuck with her — along with her familiar imp, Scrap, who has become her best friend and who can transform into a weapon when evil is nearby.
As Hounding the Moon begins, Tess saves a young Native American girl from a rampaging dog. When the dog and the girl keep reappearing in Tess’s life, she learns that they have a role to play in a Lakota myth, and that Tess’s help is needed to bring about a positive outcome. Meanwhile, she has to contend with her first romantic relationship since Dill’s death, and with the revelation that her marriage might not have been quite what she thought it was. Peppered among the present-day chapters told from Tess’s point of view are a number of “Interludes.” These feature Scrap’s point of view, scenes from Tess’s past in the Sisterhood, or both.
The storyline concerning Tess’s grief, and her coming to terms with it, is touching and emotional. These are some of the best scenes in the book. If I do go on to read more Tess Noncoiré novels, it’ll be to find out what was really going on with Dill, as questions are raised but not exactly answered.
The plot of Hounding the Moon is confusing at times, and the book is filled with scenes that don’t do much to advance it. One example is the early scenes featuring Tess’s eccentric family. I usually enjoy domestic scenes that lend a little warmth to urban fantasy’s tough-girl heroines, but in this case, there’s so much domestic stuff that the story grinds to a crawl for it. Another example is the many SF conventions Tess attends. I’m a con-goer myself, so I know cons are fun — but it’s hard to capture their charm in writing. Too often, Tess’s con adventures feel like a recitation of the schedule: she goes to a panel, she goes to the dealers’ room, she goes to a party, and so on. There’s one con scene that worked really well, though: the filking scene at the end. “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book” is a funny little ditty that spoofs cheesy science fiction and fantasy covers.
I didn’t understand some of the decisions Tess makes. For instance, Tess spends much of the book searching for the dog and the girl, but when she hears they’re nearby, she… sits back down at her restaurant table and cracks open a book. Or, when a friend calls her multiple times during a convention to warn her she’s in deadly danger, she blows off his calls and carries on with her con socializing, even though P.R. Frost makes it clear she has plenty of downtime during which she could simply call the poor guy back and ask what’s going on. I also spent much of the book not understanding why she kept trusting Donovan, even though he came off as slimy, but [Spoiler: highlight it if you want to see it] at least that turned out to have a metaphysical cause.
Overall, Hounding the Moon is too muddled and suffers from severe pacing problems and a heroine who lacks common sense. The exploration of Tess’s grief for Dill is compelling, and the bits of SF-convention humor are fun, but they’re not enough to give me much impetus to keep reading this series.
Tess Noncoiré — (2006-2010) Publisher: Tess Noncoiré is a bestselling fantasy writer. She’s also become a demon fighter trained in martial arts by the Sisterhood of the Celestial Blade Warriors and partnered with a mischievous imp named Scrap. Together they must find a young Native American girl who has disappeared — before she falls victim to a ferocious hound. As the hunt grows more desperate, the forces of darkness close in on them. Will an old Native American myth prove the key to salvation or to the end of life on Earth?