Catalyst Moon Special Edition coverLauren L. Garcia author photoHere’s our spoiler-free review of Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia. Get your copy by becoming a member today and then join us in the member portal to get your questions answered by Lauren!

In a world where magic is misunderstood, mages are feared. Even Kali, a mage, doesn’t know what she’s capable of. When raiders attack their caravan, Kali accidentally transports herself and her guard, Stonewall, miles away in the space of seconds. Separated from help, in a countryside filled with danger, Stonewall and Kali must learn to trust each other in order to survive.

Here’s the breakdown using our scale:

Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt, Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts, Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts

Kali and Stonewall are just the first characters we meet in Catalyst Moon: Incursion. A wide cast spans the countryside, each with their own relationships and struggles. Milo and Flint are siblings sworn into the sentinels for life. As guards of mages, they’ve escaped the poverty of their youth but at the expense of a shortened life. Gideon and Eris, married mages used as slaves by the sentinels, plot an escape. Aderey and his family face persecution for their way of life, and shadowy figures plot rebellion against the monarchy.

This cast of well-rounded characters with diverse goals and personalities, includes female characters of all types–those bound by honor, those fighting for their freedom, those finding love when they thought they were alone. Their interactions pass the Bechdel-Wallace test as they discuss everything from violins to magic to desperate plans.

Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts

There’s so much happening in this book I don’t know where to start! When I was younger, I stayed up late every night reading every book in the Redwall series as fast as possible, because each chapter ended on a cliffhanger–and then the next chapter switched to a different set of characters. By the time THAT chapter ended in another cliffhanger, I didn’t want to leave those characters, either.

Catalyst Moon: Incursion has similar elements. Some characters are fighting for their lives, some are plotting escape, some are navigating life-or-death politics, some are uncovering mysteries. Meanwhile, all characters are dealing with human relationships of all kinds. I raced to the end of this book, stressed out practically the whole time, as all the characters I quickly came to love faced danger while trying to reach their goals.

Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts

What really put Catalyst Moon: Incursion above and beyond for me were the romantic relationships. Romance can be a difficult topic to tackle. Romantic tropes between heterosexual couples are often rooted in harmful, misogynistic behaviors (sometimes called “traditional”, one of my pet peeve coded words for “sexist”).

In Lauren L. Garcia’s world, the genders are equal, and this is reflected throughout the romantic relationships as well. Though we see some male characters in traditionally masculine roles, they don’t fall into tired tropes. Though the women are strong, they aren’t stereotypes like the Strong Female Character trope. (Actually, none of the characters fall into tropes. That’s what happens when you have more than one female character, or more than one romance.  Depth starts to happen naturally.)

Offensive romantic tropes are a huge reason I set down books, whether I’m looking for our next BOM or reading a traditionally-published bestseller. I loved how comfortable I felt watching these characters fall in love through mutual respect, not outdated ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. I hope you’ll feel the same.

Score: 15/15

Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity image, a yellow number 15 inside of a pink Venus symbol

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