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NATURE'S KINGDOM

Modern High Fantasy Shenanigans

By TanaNari, author of Price

Nov 7, 2017: Note: As of this review, there are only 13 chapters to the story and it’s nowhere near completion. This is a preliminary review, and it may change a great deal as it progresses.

I’d say without hesitation that the author’s greatest strength is bringing the characters to life. They have their own unique voices and personalities which shine through from the moment they’re introduced. Our main character is in over her head, but she keeps some semblance of goals in mind and can still think despite the chaos, while also avoiding the old ‘instantly awesome’ power fantasy that such stories often produce.

As a fan of modern supernatural story archetypes, Mercy lives up to her name as a breath of fresh air in a genre where main characters have become stale. To the point where I have to wonder if she’s not based on an actual person. The other major characters manage to be equally complex and interesting.

If you stick with Nature’s Kingdom, it will almost certainly be out of love for the characters, because they’re perfect. Everything else . . . is imaginative and ambitious, but that ambition is often of a scope greater than the author can deliver on.

The story bills itself as a superhero setting on the face of it, but once you get beneath the surface it becomes an eclectic high fantasy (complete with angels, sorcery, gods, and kitsune) story, which serves as a bit of a blessing and a curse.

The setting is incredibly thought out, with its own spin on many a place and being that is mythology in our world. It’s fun to see Moonfeather’s take on these old staples, both novel and traditional in equal frequency. It steps through genre boundaries like they’re not there, going from dark to lighthearted and from mundane to mystical in the blink of an eye.

This is both a strength, and a weakness. This story tends toward the ‘schizophrenic’ at times. Like it can’t seem to make up its mind what sort of tale it’s meant to be. Now, personally, I like those sorts of stories- they feel truer to life than stories limited to one theme or tone, but they take a great deal of skill to pull off well, and even when done right they alienate readers who want one thing and feel cheated when a story changes tone partway through. You’ll have to decide for yourself which side of this debate you fall.

The first chapter (not including the prelude) involved an interrupted drunken liaison of . . . let us say ‘dubious consent’. Fortunately, the author didn’t make it into this huge melodramatic thing, once again averting genre norms and showing a real talent for finding unique, interesting, and most importantly real voices for the characters. They act like people, not caricatures.

Three chapters later, the same character is having a conversation (exposition dump) about the nature of the universe with what is essentially Gaea. Along with some vague predictions of the future, as is tradition of the genre the first time a character meets a god.

Which leads us into a second problem with the story. Pacing. While Nature’s Kingdom presents an interesting story from the onset, along with a promise of deep and complex mysteries in the background, it front-loads the exposition. The story effectively changes genres twice in the first three chapters, as we see Moonfeather trying to show us far more of this world she’s created than is necessary.

We’re introduced to multiple supernatural species, magic, gods, and superheroes, and over a dozen characters I am convinced are going to be essential in the long run, all in the first few chapters.

Including all the supernatural terminology and alien species names which bog down the early part of the story while also throwing in fight sequences and even a glimpse into paranormal politics. To say nothing of learning tidbits about the universe from one of its Creators.

Now, once it gets past this hurdle, the pacing stabilizes some, though a clean balance between Action and Exposition is never really found. At the same time, it never made me quit reading the story. As I said . . . the characters are brilliant, the setting is fascinating, and the plot (when it’s on point) is compelling and enjoyable.

Therefor, I’m giving it a solid 8 out of 10.

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