The Moon Coin book coverGrowing up, Lily and Jasper loved to listen to their Uncle Ebb’s tales of life in the Moon Realm, a fantastic universe filled with such creatures as horse-sized, cat-like Rinn, giants, merfolk and dragons. When Ebb goes missing, however, Lily discovers and accidentally activates his pendant, transporting herself to another world. As she quickly learns, the Moon Realm is not only an uncle’s bedtime story – and is also not as safe and happy a place as Ebb had always depicted it.

The Moon Coin is a fantasy novel for junior to young adult readers. It boasts a richly envisioned and detailed universe and a strong plot that perfectly complements the novel’s genre and setting. Although Richard Due’s Moon Realm debut is long for the middle grade market, the fast moving action found in the latter three quarters of the novel should ensure that younger readers remain engaged despite its length.

In fact, one of the things I particularly enjoyed about The Moon Coin was the way that Due does not talk down to his young readers. The book employs a rich vocabulary, giving its audience opportunities to learn new words in context. Despite this, the language is not pitched too high to be age-appropriate.

Due to the vastness of the universe depicted in The Moon Coin, it is not surprising that the reader is introduced to a good number of characters within the pages of the novel. As a protagonist, Lily is certainly easy to identify with, as an outsider thrust into a fantastic realm. My difficulty lay in the fact that she seemed a little too ordinary, once shown against the more-interesting inhabitants of the Moon Realm, and I tended to be more interested by their stories than her own. I imagine, however, that she (and Jasper) will become more rounded as the series unfolds.

There is certainly no shortage of intriguing characters in the novel, from Ebb himself through to the mysterious Ember. I personally loved the Rinn; they fit right into one of my favourite fictional archetypes. In particular, I greatly enjoyed the noble Nimlinn and the dedicated Roan, and hope that they will both feature more in later Moon Ream books. For those who aren’t quite as interested in giant cats, the moon of Dain provides such intriguing characters as master swordsman Dubb and the cursed Tavin.

It would not be right to review The Moon Coin without at least a brief mention of Carolyn Arcabascio’s lovely illustrations. As well as illustrating the cover of the novel, she has provided images at the beginning of every chapter. They are rather wasted on my Kindle but, luckily, I was able to view them on my computer as well, and they add a great deal to Due’s work. I particularly appreciated having a visual reference for the appearance of the Rinn. (That’s one on the cover, for those who aren’t in the know.)

While I enjoyed The Moon Coin once Lily was in the Moon Realm and I had grown accustomed to the universe, I did struggle a little to get into the novel at first. The chapters leading to the discovery of Ebb’s pendant felt a little drawn out to me, and I had a little difficulty understanding all of the unusual creations within Ebb’s house. It is once the setting changes, however, that Due’s true abilities as a storyteller become evident, and the intricately described universe of the Moon Realm is the highlight of the book.

Young fantasy lovers should greatly enjoy The Moon Coin – and adult fans of the genre might be well-served by picking it up as well.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)