Review: The Shadow of the Moon, M. M. Kaye

The review in a moment. But first, thank you to whatever lovely person nominated me for Best Eclectic Book Blog for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Whoever you are, you are so very sweet and kind. You can’t see me, but I am making a heart shape with my forefingers and thumbs, to indicate that I Appreciate you too.

On Labor Day weekend, I went to stay with my relatives. Legal Sister came too. It was so pleasant. I left on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend lying around reading The Shadow of the Moon (in the hammock when sunny, on the couch when not), making delicious cookies and cinnamon-sugar pretzels, watching my beautiful darlings on a Duck-hunt (which is to say, watched them win a game and simultaneously not be slagged off by the announcers, which, seriously, y’all have no idea how rare that is), and generally being decadent. The Shadow of the Moon was the perfect book for my decadent weekend.

Written by M. M. Kaye, who also wrote The Far Pavilions and The Ordinary Princess, The Shadow of the Moon is a long epic tale that culminates in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Raised for the first six years of her life in Oudh, then the next eleven years in England with her chilly, unfriendly British family, heiress Winter de la Ballesteros has been sent out to India to be married to an officer of the Raj, Conway Barton, who — unbeknownst to her — is a drunkard and a womanizer. She falls in love with Barton’s competent, clever second-in-command, Alex Randall, who is doing his best to warn his fellow Britons to change their ways and avert the impending revolution by Indians tired of mismanagement and incompetence in the government.

Please don’t judge me for how much I love this book. Although Kaye makes it clear that her sympathies lie mostly with India, and not with the blustery British commanders who swear that their sepoys are utterly loyal and would never turn against them, there’s still some uncomfortable little racial moments, and the Indian characters are poorly developed. This is, I think, a function of the setting: Alex and Winter’s positions don’t give them the opportunity for extended interactions with the Indians. Kaye does better with this in The Far Pavilions. In any case, the book gives the sympathetic characters a pass on colonialism by setting them in opposition to the nasty characters causing all the trouble in India.

That disclaimer aside, I love love love love love this book. I love it. It’s all, you know, going about on ships, and then beautiful heiresses grieving their conservative relations by liking India too much, and stolen kisses on moonlit nights to a background of traditional ballads. Oh, and a whole lot of slaughter. And self-righteousness. And some sharks.

You know what I really want? What I really want the very most right now is a book about the Raj that is epistolary. An epistolary book about the Raj. That would be so good I would barely be able to take it. Does anyone know of such a book? Set around this same time, but epistolary? Can that be a thing that exists? (Not The White Tiger. Wrong time period, and I like my protagonists sympathetic, thank you.)

Nobody else in the whole Book Blogs Search Engine has read this book. I wish someone else would read it and then write about it so I wouldn’t be the only one on the internet. It is lonely to be the only one on the internet.