Blog Tour and Review: Under the Lesser Moon by Shelly Campbell

Dragons once led our people across the wastelands, away from storms, and toward hunting grounds.”

That’s what the elders say, but Akrist has squinted at empty skies his whole life. The dragons have abandoned them, and it’s Akrist’s fault. He’s cursed. Like every other firstborn son, he has inherited the sins of his ancestors. In his camp, he’s the only eldest boy left. Something happened to the others.

Something terrible.

When Akrist befriends Tanar, an eldest boy from another tribe, he discovers the awful truth: they’re being raised as sacrifices to appease the Goddess and win back her dragons. The ritual happens when the dual moons eclipse. Escape is the only option, but Akrist was never taught to hunt or survive the wastelands alone. Time is running out, and he has to do something before the moons touch.

This book is superbly written and sucked me in to the narrative right from the first page. It was one of those books where I just needed to know what was going to happen next.

Before I talk more about the plot/characters, I have to say that this book is dark. Really, really dark. It won’t be for everyone. I’d say it surpasses grimdark in places and heads straight for horror. It was utterly unrelenting in its darkness as well, we as the reader never got chance to draw breath before our characters were hit with the next crisis, the next horrific bit of information.

I don’t often include Trigger Warnings this way but in this case I will. You need to be aware that this book contains, child abuse (mental and physical), rape, drug use, castration, coercive control, animal abuse.

The world building in this book is excellent, and utterly believable. It’s not a world I’d want to live in though. The society is built around a tale where the Goddess’ first born Son kills the second and is punished by the Goddess for it. As a result first born son’s are shunned their entire lives with minimal contact with their families and tribe before being horrifically sacrificed in the hope of appeasing their Goddess and bringing in Dragon ‘guides’

Our main character Akrist is one such first born son or ‘daeson’ and his story is filled with pain.

The author explores all aspects of such an upbringing, the psychological and physical damage that is done. It’s not an easy read.

The other members of the Tribe are well characterised as well none of them feel flat and the camp feels realistic. They don’t have an easy life either, it’s a hard hunting/gathering life. Their leader is drug addled and cruel and often brings suffering in his wake.

Akrist was likeable and you were always on his side even when you wanted him to take a different action. The Vaiya’s (giant birds, used a bit like horses) were adorable and I wish they existed.

This book is marketed on its dragons and although they are undoubtedly important to the story and the world built here we actually see very little of them in this book. I suspect this will change as the series develops but don’t go into this one expecting a lot of dragon interaction.

Despite (or maybe because of) the unrelenting darkness this book was gripping. I found myself willing everything to be alright.

I will definitely be looking out for book 2 in this series.

With thanks to Mythos and Ink Publishing for inviting me on the tour and sending me a copy in exchange for honest review.

Under the Lesser Moon will be available 7th November 2020.