The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N McIntyre

A winner of the 1997 Nebula award for best novel, Vonda N McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun is a sumptuous work of alternate history. Set in 17th century France, at the court of the Sun King, the book’s attention to detail and flowing narrative help create an absorbing tale of fantasy, romance, science and history.

Louis XIV, the Sun King, rules the Western World from the Chateau at Versailles. Marie- Josèphe de la Croix looks forward to assisting her brother in the scientific study of the rare sea monsters the king has commissioned him to seek. The living sea monster, with its double tail, tangled hair, and gargoyle face, provides an intriguing experiment for Yves and the king. Yet for Marie-Josèphe, the creature's gaze and exquisite singing foretell a different future. Soon Marie-Josèphe is contemplating choices that defy the institutions which power her world.

The Moon and the Sun has a wonderful atmosphere and is told at an admirably unhurried pace. The characters are larger than life but still realistic and McIntyre’s narrative brings to life the grandeur and over-elaboration of the times while focussing on the ambitions and fears of those at court.

The novel’s heroine, Marie-Josèphe, is a female Leonardo de Vinci, enormously talented at everything she puts her hand to and central to all that happens. Her interactions with her brother Yves, the King’s advisor Lucien, the sea monster and the King himself drive a story that is both thought-provoking and engaging. But the character that remains in the mind long after the last page has been turned is the Sun King himself, Louis XIV, a man of great charisma and intelligence.

The Moon and the Sun successfully melds fantasy and alternate history to create a charming, well-written and meticulously-researched novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy history and romance with a fantasy element.

* Vonda N McIntyre also won Nebula Awards for Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand (best novelette, 1973) and Dreamsnake (best novel, 1978). The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Since 1965, the Nebula Awards have been given each year for the best novel, novella, novelette, and short story eligible for that year’s award.

9/10 An absorbing tale of fantasy, romance, science and history.

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