Other People's Books

Book review: Luna: La cité maudite, by Élodie Tirel

Luna: La cité mauditeLuna: La cité maudite by Elodie Tirel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a challenge to properly review this on the grounds that I’m very new to the French language–and this was the first book I tried to read in order to practice my reading comprehension with Quebecois French! So I have to comment on this book with the caveat that my understanding of it is therefore decidedly imperfect.

But that said, I was very pleased to be able to follow the broad strokes of the plot even though I missed a lot of the detail. Right out of the gate we start with a prologue in which the elf Ambrethil, a slave of the drow, is giving birth to a child. She’s scared out of her wits that her child will be born half-drow and a girl, which will run a huge risk of the baby being raised in the evil cult of the spider goddess Lloth. Ambrethil will have exactly NONE of this, so she arranges to have her baby smuggled out of the drow city, Rhasgarrok.

Commence the A plot, fast-forwarding twelve years, to when our young heroine Luna is being raised by wolves. Like ya DO. Her only bipedal family figure is a solitary mage, Le Marécageux, who taught her how to speak, read, and write. When her adoptive wolf pack is attacked and apparently wiped out by a drow attacker, Luna learns the truth of her origins from Le Marécageux, and resolves to venture into Rhasgarrok in search of her mother.

Meanwhile, over in plot B, the warrior Darkhan is also infiltrating Rhasgarrok on a mission of his own. He’s promptly captured by the sorceress Oloraé, who forces him to become a gladiator. Again, like ya DO.

I was entirely unsurprised that plot A and plot B eventually intersected, but was pleasantly surprised by what transpired then. Luna, despite her initial introduction being quite cliched (because of course she’s unbelievably beautiful and looks exactly like her mother, yadda yadda yadda), was quite a bit more mature and clever than Darkhan was willing to give her initial credit for. Sure, the whole “oh this sweet innocent young thing I must protect from the awful things in this city” thing is another heavily used trope, but Luna and Darkhan both carried it out in a surprisingly likeable fashion. Which is the overall thing about this book; it uses a lot of heavily used tropes, but it does it surprisingly charmingly.

And, despite how my ability to follow the French was rough at best, I was able to pick up on how there’s some surprisingly grim bits with Darkhan in the gladiatorial bouts. My rough impression of the interactions between Darkhan and Oloraé suggested there was probably innueundo there, too. But overall this certainly seemed appropriately written for a YA audience.

So if you’re an Anglophone looking to practice your French, this would be a fun way to do it. I’ll be checking out more books in the series, since they’re digitally available to US customers on a few different sites. I’ll give this one four stars, mostly out of pleasure for the language practice, but also for finding it generally charming.

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