What Do You Think Of This Book Synopsis?



I’m working on revising my fantasy novel, The Moon’s Accomplice, into a big ol’ sprawling fantasy trilogy. This is a rough stab at Book One, and I would love any feedback on what’s missing or needs tweaking. One of the things I’ve been doing is reading other big ol’ sprawling fantasy novels: the Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson Wheel of Time series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, Pat Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, David Edding’s Belgariad and Robin Hobb’s work. I’m trying to figure out what makes for a successful series. What other series would you suggest looking at? (Note that I have read the LotR a bajillion times.)

Things that seem common to all of them:

  • Engaging, interesting characters, and plenty of time in their heads
  • Landscapes and marvels, plenty of “eyeball kicks
  • Ups and downs, characters enduring vicissitudes and working to do their best in spite of them

Book One begins as Shyra, a Dryad, is brought to the city of Tabat in chains, aboard a steamboat. She doesn’t know why she and a handful of her sisters have been brought to the seaport, but she senses that it’s to no good. They’re already enslaved by a social system where humans rule, asserting their Gods-given right over animals and Beasts, the category into which all intelligent magical creatures like Dryads are relegated.

At the same time far to the north on what the Tabatians consider the rough frontier, young Teo is having similar forebodings – his sister is very ill and no one will meet his eyes when speaking of the cure. Teo’s already been rejected by the village because he’s failed to exhibit the shapeshifting powers most of them possess. Finally he discovers that he’s been promised to the Temples of the Moon in Tabat as an acolyte/indentured servant if his sister recovers.

Bella Kanto, premier Gladiator of Tabat, finds herself confronted by a disturbing omen in the form of a lobotomized young Centaur that’s been sold to the Brides of Steel, Tabat’s all-female gladiatorial academy. She goes to see her cousin, Leonoa, a prominent Tabatian artist, only to find Leonoa embroiled in a scandalous love affair. Leonoa shrugs aside conversation, struggling to finish up a few last canvases for a show opening in a few days.

Imprisoned in the Duke’s menagerie, Shyra learns that she and the other Dryads are meant to root and become trees, which will be harvested and fed to the great engine that fuels many of Tabat’s technologies, such as the great Waterfall below the Duke’s castle, the mechanized gondola system that moves the inhabitants from one city terrace to another, and the street lights that show any sign of sorcery or shapeshifter activity on the main streets.

Meanwhile, Teo contemplates fleeing the village. He starts out to do so, only to encounter the Moon priest, Nero, to whom he’s been promised on the road. He and Nero embark on the journey and the stern but sympathetic priest tries to instruct him on the matters he’ll need to know to survive life in the Temple. When Nero breaks his leg, progress is slowed, and even more so when he falls prey to a parasitic fairy in the wilderness. When they arrive at a river town, Nero puts Teo aboard a trade boat, the Eloquent Swan, and entrusts the pilot Archis with getting Teo to the city.

Shyra’s escape is more successful. She manages to slip out of the menagerie and make her way outside Tabat, although she is pursued by the Duke’s Huntress, a relentless and skilled tracker. Nonetheless, Shyra makes her way to the mountains to the northeast of Tabat, where she finds a camp of other escaped Beasts.

When a student of hers from the Brides of Steel is killed in a riot, guilt wracks Bella, particularly since she helped instigate the riot. Political unrest haunts the city, caused by upcoming events: the first election of the Mayor of Tabat, at which point the Duke will reluctantly step down and relinquish his hereditary rule. Bella and the head of the Brides of Steel, Myrila, have a severe falling out. Bella feels she’s been let down by Myrila at a time when she’s facing the pressure of the annual Spring Games. If she assumes the role of Winter and wins, as she has for the past fifteen years, spring will not come to Tabat for another six weeks, impacting trade in a way none of Tabat’s merchants appreciate.

The fireworks of Bella’s victory light the sky the night Teo arrives in Tabat, where he’s entrusted by Archis to Skilto, a merchant-mage handling the Swan’s cargo, more Dryad logs bound for the College of Mages. Skilto lets the boy escape during an accident with one of the logs. Skilto gives the boy’s fate little mind. He’s got his own set of problems, with his father threatening to stop paying his tuition to the College unless Skilto agrees to marry. He’s about to investigate the three candidates presented to him: socialite Lilia Delarose, merchant Marta Lavender, and merchant-historian Ariadne Nittlescent.

Shyra adjusts to life among the escaped Beasts. She’s heartened to hear that they have a plan to free Tabat’s Beasts. They will first infiltrate the city, disguised as the members of the Circus of the Autumn Moon, one of many entertainment troupes drawn to Tabat by the political campaigns and the amount of money being spent on courting political favor. She meets the man who will oversee the Moon, sinister and secretive Murga, whose origins are unknown.

Resolute to avoid the semi-enslavement of Temple life and make his own fate in Tabat, Teo wanders the streets and narrowly escapes being press-ganged. He adapts to life on the streets, begging and scavenging food where he can. He is befriended by a young artist, but disaster follows when his shapeshifting powers unexpectedly manifest. Teo finds himself emperiled by agents of the Duke intent on finding sorcerers and shapeshifters in the city and takes refuge in the Autumn Moon.

A troubled Bella tries to divert herself by taking her friend and sometimes lover Ariadne Nittlescent to the opening of Leonoa’s art show. Skilto and Marta arrive as well, only to find the place the site of a riot incited by the political nature of Leonoa’s paintings, which depict Beasts assuming human roles. Aided by two other gladiators, Bella holds the crowd back long enough to let Leonoa and the other attendees escape.

Skilto’s tried two candidates and found them lacking, although he’s drawn into friendship with Marta Lavender’s father Milosh. When he meets Ariadne at a party, he realizes that she’s the one he’s interested in. Ariadne pays him little mind. She’s too busy thinking about the decision her mother Emilee has made to push Ariadne into political office. Ariadne’s occupied enough with the history of Tabat she’s writing and, unbeknownst to her mother, running a lucrative publishing house specializing in lurid accounts of Bella’s adventures. She’s working on a new book as well, Archis’ account of life on a frontier boat.

Bella agrees to a favor for a lover she picked up at the gallery, only to find herself faced with charges of smuggling deadly sorcerous ingredients. The Duke informs her that he’s sending her with an expedition to the frontier at the end of Book One. Bella’s disgrace leads to a rift between Skilto and Ariadne, deepened when Skilto discovers Archis is courting her as well. Murga hints that he knows Teo’s secret, but Teo avoids any direct discussion of it as he fights to fit in with daily circus life.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 100+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.
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  • http://www.dunceuponatime.com BC Woods

    First off, I adore you and your writing.

    Secondly, I think there might be two other commonalities in the series you mentioned:

    -Looming threat

    Which makes all characters seem connected, no matter how far apart they are or how different their actions may be. Even if they are on the side of the Looming Threat, it gives them a niche to fall into in the narrative.

    -Visceral Magic System

    That gives people a sensation of what it might be like to actually “Do” Magic so it doesn’t seem like such an alien experience.

    There are plenty of great works without those things, but I just thought I’d mention them since they did seem integral to the way the works mentioned operated.

    • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

      Looming threat is a good one. In reworking this, I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep things escalating over the course of the three books.

      Absolutely on the magic system. I think that’s where gamer backgrounds come in handy, heh.

      • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

        And thank you for the nice compliment :)

        • http://www.dunceuponatime.com BC Woods

          My pleasure.

          I await the fruits of this with great impatience. ;)

  • xygax

    Brent Week’s “Night Angel” series is pretty damned good, also.

  • http://www.spiralzine.blogspot.com Dustin Monk

    Daniel Abraham’s “Long Price Quartet” is a wonderful and different fantasy read, particularly in setting and tone.

  • http://www.deannaknippling.com DeAnna

    Hm…something world-changing had better occur. “3000 pages and no cataclysm? I was ripped off!!!”

    I like Carol Berg’s Flesh and Spirit/Blood and Bone, Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet, and am a complete Tad Williams sucker.

    • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

      I -love- Carol Berg’s books, I need to go back and reread those for sure. I also like the Abraham books. I found the Williams a little long and slow-paced.

  • Katie Sparrow

    First, I think your writing and abilities would lend itself tremendously well to a fantasy epic, and I think you’d bring tons to the subgenre with your language skills and your heart.

    Oh, and you’ve read Mieville’s New Crobuzon books and VanderMeer’s Ambergris, yeah? I suspect Tabat is nearer to those worlds than the others, as far as diversity and complexity and ‘adultness’, whatever that means.

    So yeah, looming threat, or some societal/planet-wide event that everyone is interacting with, from the very beginning. It’s a bit hard to know if there is that in this synopsis or not. Also, epics often have very disparate characters that are all eventually thrown together and are either enemies or each other’s posse’s. There is such a deliciousness for me, in how that comes to pass. I’m not seeing that here, but I’m a tired tired mama, so I could be missing flashing neon signs. Also, epics have that grandiose-hero thing, which I’m pretty tired of but also use in my own fiction, so there you go.

    Good luck with this project, and I too wanna read it already :)

    • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

      Love the Mieville and the Ambergris for sure. I’m fascinated by the books where the city becomes like a character in and of itself. As for the looming menace, the big big one pops up at the beginning of the second book, so maybe I should fiddle with that order.

  • Mark Bukovec

    Hey, Cat. I’m so glad you’re reworking The Moon’s Accomplice! I like the story arcs you’ve synopsized, but the one thing I’m not seeing is a completed arc in the first book. It seems everyone is heading off to further complications. When reading a Book 1, I find it frustrating if there’s no sense that a major chapter of the story has finished. Perhaps Shyra leads a successful revolt in the city? It looks like Bella has a long arc, which I’d be glad to see, because she’s the “mature” character, the Aragorn of the story, and she resonates with me the most. I’d like to see some characters have their Rebel medal ceremony and laugh at the Wookie before heading off to take on the Empire.

    • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

      That’s super helpful, Mark, thank you so much!

  • Ken Flynn, Jr.

    I also liked the Brent Week’s Night Angel series, bought #1 and had to wait on #2 and #3, thought I would die before they came in. If you liked LotR, you will LOVE Dennis L. McKiernan’s Mithgar series! Any series that I liked a lot always had the characters written out so they could almost step from my mind (don’t let the Jr. fool you, am 54 years old!). And of course, the ever-present disaster looming over their heads…
    I have also read most of what you had down, and a lot more besides (am an avid reader…) over the past 40 years or so. I also collect books…
    Any writer who can get themselves published has my utmost respect! Congrats to you, and I will have to watch for your books. best, Ken