My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the first installment of an enjoyable saga, Catalyst Moon. I don’t read many series, though, and this book reminds me of why. Incursion does a good job of setting up the characters, the world, and the conflicts, but the pace is leisurely and once things are really getting going, the book ends. I might read the next one, but I have so many other things to read in the meantime that it will be months if not years until I get around to it. I don’t believe this book stands on its own.
If that aspect doesn’t bother you as a reader, there are many things to like and recommend about Incursion. The system of magic is interesting and consistent. I liked the fact that the viewpoint mage characters were not fully aware of the extent of their powers and were engaged in realistically portrayed quests of self-discovery. I found their self-directed trial and error to be a refreshing change from stories in which magic users are put through their paces at established elite academies, taught by all-knowing, almost god-like sages. I also liked the relative gender equality in this society, despite its being largely pre-technological. Kalinda and Stonewall are appealing characters, and the romance is sweet, if somewhat predictable. It would be easily appropriate for YA readers. In general, I found the author’s approach to relationships to be positive and uplifting, and it seemed that sibling and parent/child relationships, in addition to romantic ones, were all going to play an important role in the saga.
I wish that, given the long set-up and leisurely pace, we had been shown more complexity and ambiguity in some of the characters. Perhaps this will be revealed in later books, but I think we need more of it sooner. For example, I thought that the revelation about Kalinda’s parentage and past was too long in coming, and it didn’t apparently change anything for her or for her relationship with Stonewall in the present. And Eris and Gid’s relationship confused me: first Eris came across as madly in love, and then she was angry almost to the point of contempt. Of course those two feelings can easily co-exist in the same person and the same relationship, but the writing wasn’t convincing. I needed to see the seeds of one feeling in the other, whereas these characters just came across as entirely different people in different chapters.
The title, “Incursion,” gives very little information about the book’s plot, character, or themes. In fact, I still don’t know what it means. “Catalyst Moon” at least throws me a bone, referencing the world’s moons and the fact that mages are sometimes referred to as moon bloods. I also see the mages’ role as catalysts for change and growth (and chaos). And I liked the cover. I found it eye-catching and appropriate to the book. I interpreted the woman on the cover as Kalinda and I found her sympathetic. I’m glad I read this book, and I do want to know what happens to the characters. But I wish I didn’t have to wait so long to find out.