Moonshine by Jasmine Gower. ★★1/2
Moonshine is a debut fantasy novel inspired by the roaring twenties.
Daisy wants to be the perfect embodiment of the Modern Girl, stylish and independent. However, she also uses arcana — and magic is outlawed in Soot City. When mercenaries start targeting magicians, Daisy will find herself right in the middle of the bull’s eye.
Moonshine‘s biggest failing is plot. It’s just not compelling, and I think this is due to a number of reasons. For one, Daisy isn’t driving the plot, she’s reacting to it. This partly falls under characterization, but Daisy does not have strong motivation. She wants to be a Modern Girl, but it’s not like there’s a whole lot of conflict inherent in her desire to be stylish and independent. She wants to keep using the arcana her grandmother gave her… but it’s never clear why she’s so determined to hang on to it. For the most part, the artifacts her grandmother left her with seem to be no more than conveniences that make her life a little bit easier. They keep the soot off her clothes, help her water plants, and catch things she accidentally drops. Is using them really worth the risk of discovery that she’s supposedly so worried about?
Also, the plot (the mercenary after Daisy) felt contrived and more like an events happening in a roughly sequential order instead of events following naturally from each other. It feels like the author created the world and characters and then remembered that she needed to have some sort of plot and threw this in at the last minute. And it takes forever to get rolling! There’s a lot of time spent twiddling thumbs and setting things up, and it ended up feeling undeniably boring. If I wasn’t reading this for review, I would have DNF’ed.
Onto characters! I think the biggest issue with them was lack of motivation, which I’ve already talked about. I also found them to be fairly static. Daisy might learn more about the co-workers at her new job, but I didn’t see her changing or growing through the story. All in all, I would have liked more character development.
Actually, “more development” could be applied to most aspects of Moonshine, including the world building. One of the draws is the setting based on 1920’s Chicago. The influence is clear, but Moonshine doesn’t delve much beyond the aesthetics. There’s a number of fantasy books inspired by the 20’s that have magic be outlawed instead of alcohol. Moonshine doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the pack.
However, there is one big positive when it comes to Moonshine: it’s got a ton of queer rep. Daisy read to me as bi or pan, and there’s also a gender fluid character and an aromantic character. In fact, Moonshine is actually an #ownvoices aro book. I’d heard that Moonshine dealt with gender and sexuality, and that was one of the key reasons I requested an ARC. Happily, I didn’t find this aspect disappointing.
On the whole Moonshine had a lot of promise, but it is plagued by inherent structural issues. It’s not a book I’m planning to recommend, but that said, there may be other readers who enjoy it more than me.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.