Moroda is the debut novel of author L.L. McNeil, who kindly provided me with a copy of her book in exchange for a review.
Moroda is the first of six books in the World of Linaria series, set in a big world full of dragons, sky ships and magic. In this first installment, Moroda and her sister Eryn have recently lost their luxurious titles as Goldstones following the death of their father. When a dragon attacks their city under the compulsion of a man called Aciel, they team up with a sky pirate, Amarah, as well as with a miscellaneous band of other characters in order to stop him from waging war on Linaria.
The most exciting thing about this novel is the world building. The world is populated by cities rich with different cultures and races/species, stretching out across a large geographical expanse, putting it right up there in scope with other epic fantasies. Although a minimal part of the story in comparison to the dragon element, the sky pirates and ships helps set it apart from most fantasy. It reminded me at times of Treasure Planet in this way.
This is a decent start for a self-published debut author, with the potential to be great. As it stands right now, Moroda does not feel like a fully polished or published draft. I want to be honest about that, because I believe that the author is passionate about her writing and has room to grow, and grow into a successful storyteller. The book has great potential, which is why I feel it deserves an investment in a professional editor. Typos and some awkward grammatical instances aside, the story structure could benefit from some tightening up, and there is still some character work that could be done to better engross the reader in the narrative.
On the author’s page, L.L. McNeil says that Amarah is her favourite character, and I’m in the same boat there. The sky pirate has style and attitude! Palom and Anahrik are weapon smiths who can shape shift into tigers and falcons and are just cool in general. Sapora is the mysteriously dangerous Varkain. These characters are more interesting than Moroda, the protagonist, who switches between being a wallflower and making brash and foolish decisions. Her motivation for doing things seems to mostly be driven by a “why not?” mentality, which works in the beginning but wears thin as the novel progresses. I am curious about why, if most fond of Amarah, the author did not make her the protagonist? Unless each novel will have a different protagonist, which I would be up for!
I wanted to see Moroda’s relationships with the other characters develop more as well, as I can’t really figure out why some of their attitudes towards each other change when they do. At many points throughout the story, Moroda internally raises questions and curiosities about the other characters that she never asks out loud, usually because she doesn’t want to offend, is afraid, or too tired. This works to show that Moroda is shy and observant, but as a result the reader doesn’t get to know about the other characters either. It can be challenging to read a story where the main narrator is aware that she has no talents, and constantly voices this, while being surrounded by fascinating individuals that a reader would much rather like to hear about. I like sister relationships in books in place of romance, which this book has, but Eryn felt completely unnecessary to the story as it stands as well, as she seems to mostly be used as a plot device for motivating Moroda’s actions.
I would be curious to read future installments in the series with different narrators, if that is the intent, as I found Sapora and Amarah’s few chapters to be really strong! Amarah has a past of being the underdog but is now independent and a total badass. Like a true pirate, she is driven by money and love for her ship, but has a soft spot here and there. Often times throughout this novel I wanted to know what she was thinking. As for Sapora, the Varkain as a race seem to have a sinister history full of cultural lore that I would really like to explore. Overall, there is a lot of bigotry towards him from the other characters that doesn’t paint them in a likeable light, but it moves the story forward and keeps things interesting. The dynamic between he and Amarah, while at times very aggressive on her part, creates an interestingly tense dynamic among the party.
My only other thought is that this might serve a YA audience as well. The characters are adults, Moroda being somewhere near her mid-twenties if I recall correctly, but I think fans of YA would enjoy this!
L.L. McNeil should be proud of the result of this inspired debut, and I look forward to following her writing career.
Page Count: 426 Paperback, 506 Kindle
Available on: Amazon
3 Sky Ships!