The Moon Rouge by L.M.R. Clarke is an imaginative and captivating coming of age fantasy story with deep themes of identity and acceptance. I thoroughly enjoyed this rich, well-crafted fantasy tale of two brothers fighting on opposing sides of a world-altering conflict. I was impressed by how alien yet relatable the world is, and there is a certain brilliance to the subtext that I can’t deny. This book is categorized as LGBTQIA+, and I feel Clarke portrayed this aspect of the story exceptionally well. Instead of making it a separate element, they wove it into the fabric of the narrative depicting a world where sexual orientation and sexual identity aren’t scrutinized as they are in our world. The people of the world “gender” at puberty, which means children aren’t raised as male or female because they have no physical sexual identity. It’s an interesting concept, and it ties directly into how the people view love and sexuality. In the case of protagonist Mantos, he is in a relationship with another male not because he is necessarily attracted to other males but because he fell in love prior to gendering and his lover ended up being male too. Emmy, another essential character is asexual, which in itself is insightful because this is not something we often see.
While the concepts of sex and sexuality are reimagined, genders role are ironically a significant and fairly familiar part of the narrative. Most cultures in the story view females as dominant, and they make up the rulers and soldiers. Males, on the other hand, are assigned what we would consider more submissive roles. The exception is the Mosvam empire, to which Mantos is the heir. They consider males to be dominant, and most other nations think they are backward for it. I found this dynamic to resonate well with the theme of identity and be an interesting subversion of the trope of male rulers in fantasy.
On the subject of fantasy, The Moon Rogue contains an expansive world with a deep lore and an intriguing, if mysterious magic system. Misguided antagonist Bandim’s arc was in my mind the best illustration of this as his journey introduced us to not only the politics of the world but the dark magics that threaten it. Despite not really liking Bandim as a person, I appreciated him as a character and understood his motivations. He, along with the other two POVs, Mantos and Emmy are relatable and complex characters with realistic forces driving them. The supporting cast is equally well-written, and I even found myself caring for the fates of characters I should have wanted dead.
9.5 out of 10
The Moon Rogue by L.M.R Clarke is a fantastical fantasy adventure story that challenges norms of identity and societal roles. It’s LGBTQIA+ elements are seamlessly woven into a compelling and well-written narrative that deeply affected me. This is easily one of my favorite books of 2019, and I look forward to digging into Book 2: The Sun Emperor. I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy and anyone who may be interested in LGBTQIA+ literature. Don't forget to subscribe to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more bookish content, writing advice, and daily motivation! Our new novel Refractors Volume I: Evoke is out now! Check it out here.