When I first started reading Plenilune, I didn't really have any idea what it was about. I knew that I wanted to read it after finishing Mirriam's novel Monster (although I foolishly went on a trip without already having purchased Plenilune, so I had to delay it until I finished the book I started as soon as Monster was over, The Paper Magician). I knew that I enjoyed reading Jenny's blog posts and that she was good friends with Mirriam. Other than that (and the tantalizing precis on Amazon's item page), I was going in blind.
The ProseBut from the opening chapters, I was sucked in. The prose in this book is rich and wonderful. Biblical and Shakespearean references do more than pepper the story -- they flavor it through and through. The characters leap to life like those in Dickens and Austen. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if you took Austen's books, melded them a bit with Burrough's planetary fantasy, and added a dash of C. S. Lewis, you'd have approximately what Plenilune is. This is planetary fantasy at its finest: lush and wondrous. I found myself highlighting passages of description and dialogue because they were resonating with me as so many bits and pieces of Les Miserables had.
The StoryThe opening struck me as a bit slow coming off of a bunch of contemporary fiction and thrillers that moved at breakneck speed toward a hair-raising ending. Plenilune takes its time to set up the board and carry you through to checkmate. There might be those who find this slower pace a flaw, but it reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in its careful advance, neither too slow nor too fast.
Jenny takes the story from a very mundane opening scene through fantasy, romance, and adventure to a conclusion that satisfies (almost) every desire and question I could have asked for. (There had to be a little room for the pantheon of novels coming in its wake.)
The CastI'll confess to being peeved with Margaret's lack of curiosity in the early chapters, but by the time we meet the fox, I had accepted that this was simply not her nature. I couldn't fault her for being herself and not me.
Speaking of people's natures, Rupert and Dammerung are perfectly written and rounded characters, foils for each other, Margaret, and the reader. I couldn't have asked for a better pair of opponents whose battle to be caught up in. Rupert has a bit of the sympathetic villain about him, and something of the dangerous fiend as well. Dammerung is the dashing hero of story, but his power makes him dangerous just as Rupert is dangerous.
The women in Plenilune's Houses do not leave all to the men, but neither are they the stereotype of "strong female characters" who need no man and cannot exist in the presence of strong male characters (and the reverse is true as well). I long to write characters as dynamic, vivacious, and complex as those in this book.
In ShortYou should read this book if you're a fan of planetary fantasy like Burroughs' or Lewis', Gandalf, sagas, Austen, Susanna Clarke, foxes, cosmic battles, the Roman Empire, and/or vibrant characters who speak like Shakespearean characters without being unintelligible. If you don't find yourself in that section, I still suggest reading it. It has such powerful moments of mirth and sorrow that it can't help but resonate within the human heart.