Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


In the past ten years, Lunurin has seen the colonization of her island, the destruction of her culture, and the murder of her people by the Codicíans. She has watched as their healers, gifted with powers, were whipped to death by the Christian church. Her people have been sold into slavery, forced into work camps, forbidden their own religion, and forced to convert. Even now, the Codicían Governor lives in the Palisades, a walled city that stands where her people once celebrated and prayed to their goddesses. And through it all, Lunurin keeps her head bowed and her hair bound.

As the child of a shipwrecked Codicían priest and her Anyilan mother, Lunurin holds a special place. On the one hand, she is a Stormbringer, sworn to the goddess Anitun Tabu, goddess of vengeance; on the other, she is the unacknowledged daughter of a man about to be named Archbishop of the Codicían holdings in the east. She is granted respect and a modicum of safety; she has even found a bright light in all of this darkness: Cat, her lover, and Inez, Cat’s sister and the sister of Lunurin’s heart. With them she is happy.

When Inez is hurt, Lunurin’s thoughts are filled with vengeance and, as if summoned, Anitun Tabu’s voice returns to Lunurin’s thoughts. Anitun Tabu is a goddess of vengeance and storm, and she is angry. Her statue has been taken and locked away in the Christian church, and her people now make offerings to it in the name of Santa Maria of the Drowned, lessening her powers, causing her people to forget her name. But Anitun Tabu has not forgotten her people.

When Lunurin is possessed by her goddess, her childhood friend Alon saves her. He claims she was only drunk, that all of this was only an act to break free of the church so that she could be married to him; he says they have been promised to one another for years. Cat supports Alon’s story, and so Lunurin is married. Alon is the only voice that quiets Anitun Tabu. His strength keeps her magic calm, and his love for her is as boundless as the sea. But Anintun Tabu is angry, and she will have her vengeance.

This is a book that deals with dark subject matter … and I love it with my entire heart. There are trigger warnings for religious abuse, child pregnancy, abortion, toxic relationships, and torture. While these elements are present in the book, they are not the focus; the focus is love. About learning to love yourself, which — when you have been warped and twisted to hate everything you are — can seem almost impossible. It’s about the love and support of community, the grief of loss, and the balance between vengeance and justice. It’s about finding someone who loves you for who you are, not who they want you to be.

This book is a fictionalized — fantasy? — retelling of the Spanish conquest and colonization of the Philippine Islands and the forced conversion of its people to Christianity. Lunurian, for all that she is living in a convent, is not Christian. She does not believe in the Christian god; how can she when she hears the voice of her sworn goddess in her darkest thoughts? But to save herself, she hides her power. She keeps her hair tightly bound, her head bowed, and holds onto Cat with all of her strength. Having lost her mother, her aunts, and her family, Cat is all Lunurian has left. Cat is her guiding light, and Lunurin does her best to please Cat, to keep her happy, even while she lies to her.

Cat believes. Cat is pious. She wants to be a nun, even while she sins with her relationship with Lunurian. And Cat doesn’t like it when Lunurin acts against the Abbot, protecting the servants and Aynilan children forced to live at the school. Lunurin works hand in hand with Alon in an effort to mitigate the damage the Codicíans are doing to their people, while Cat would prefer they not.

Cat has taught Lunurin to distrust herself, taught her that she wasn’t worth of love — that she is dangerous, rebellious, lying and sneaking and never good enough, never pious enough, never pure enough for Cat. Because of this Lunurin is always apologizing, always in the wrong, always the one who must prove herself and her love. Cat wants to see Lunurin bow her head, to be less than she is … because when she is small, and hurting, and afraid she turns to Cat for comfort, for protection and strength. Cat emotionally manipulates and twists and berates Lunurin; in sex she is violent, leaving scars and wounds and blood behind. Cat is selfish, cruel, and afraid, and with her, Lunurin holds herself back, afraid to be herself, afraid to be truly seen and judged by Cat, and found wanting. And all of this feeds into Anitun Tabu; all of this darkness and rage, all of this fear and guilt. Lunurin doesn’t want to call the storm, afraid of killing more than just the Codicían, of killing her own people. She is constantly afraid … until there is Alon.

Alon is his father’s scapegoat, bearing all the emotional weight of his father’s unhappiness, hatred, and crippled pride as the token native lord under the thumb of colonizer conquistadors and priests who stripped away his culture and whipped his wife near to death for witchcraft. Alon lives his life walking on eggshells, doing his best to keep his father happy, the governor happy, everyone happy while working himself to exhaustion and — in his spare time — trying to save his people, to help witches escape, or servants, or girls who need to get away from their rapist masters. And yet, even living like this, Alon’s determined to keep his rose colored glasses on in order to keep his own sanity, hoping that diplomacy and patience will win out, that his father will see sense, that by playing by the rules no one will get hurt, even as he has to acknowledge, however unwillingly, that the Codicíans keep changing the rules to suit themselves, lying and cheating and happily ignoring what they promised only a day ago.

And Alon loves Lunurin, has always loved her. He hates himself for having forced her into this marriage, for having taken liberties by cutting her hair and making a mock of her to the Abbot and the Governor. When she turns to him for comfort, he gives it, and knowing that she loves only Cat, he refuses to put pressure on her. He is trying so hard to be what everyone else needs that he doesn’t see his own pain; Lunurin does, though. She sees his rage and his anger, his sorrow and heartache, and when he is brought to his knees by it, she is there to shelter him, to comfort him, and to simply be with him.

Cat is an excellent foil for Alon; one takes, one gives. One would have Lunurin throw away her goddess for a Christian god, while the other would accept her regardless of her faith. One hurts, one heals; one listens, one lectures. And yet I never doubted Cat’s love. It’s a twisted love, a broken love, a codependent love as Cat, without Lunurin at her side, has no one. She chases people away and is shocked when she finds herself alone. She loves with the ease of someone who knows they are loved, while Alon loves with pain of someone who thinks they will never be good enough. Cat wants Lunurin to look at her; Alon wants to look at Lunurin.

And then there’s the story. I’ll touch on it only briefly because I’ve waxed on too long already, but you don’t understand how much I love this book. Anitun Tabu is a force of nature; there are three goddesses in this world, three magics. A goddess of the sea and healing, a goddess of fire and the volcano, and Anitun Tabu. When Lunurin argues with her goddess about how she doesn’t want to be the cause of death, her goddess points out that this isn’t just about Lunurin and what she wants. This is about everyone. Her people are dying; they are raped and tortured, murdered and locked into slavery ,and they and their souls call out for vengeance. The storm Lunurin is to summon isn’t for Lunurin’s pain, it’s for Aynila.

The reluctant hero is an ancient trope, and Lunurin’s desire to not cause death and destruction is a good one. But she’s lived a safe life, protected by the church. She has been hurt, she has suffered,  but hers is not the only voice Anitun Tabu hears. It’s a glorious moment. And the climax of the book where so much happens is wonderful and cathartic. Everything comes together so well, all of the elements that were sprinkled into the story.

The writing is beautiful and elegant, never overwritten. The pacing is perfect. I didn’t notice the time at all while reading, never felt like one moment lingered to long or that a scene went by too fast. The romances — both of them, the toxic and the healthy — feel so real. Lunurin is a character that it is easy to empathize with. She’s scared, she’s angry, she’s kind and loving, and in her rage she is everything. The world building, the magic… everything is perfection.

For me, this is a six-star book, one of those books that you read at just the right time, that has just the right characters, just the right arcs, just the right emotions and elements that resonate with every part of you. You will see this book again in my year end wrap up where I will beg you — as I am begging you now — to read this book. This is the author’s debut book and I cannot wait to see what more they write in the future.