As a general rule, unless I have explicit permission from the authors, I do not discuss books I am alpha or beta reading for. And sometimes that is rather sad because the stories have so much wonderfulness to them and the authors ultimately decide that they are not yet ready to release them, which means I must sit on sharing about the stories for awhile longer.
But that is not what has happened today. Or rather yesterday.
Miranda Honfleur and Nicolette Andrews released Feast of the Mother, and I am so excited! Full disclosure, I did get to alpha read this and make some recommendations, so I am very invested in this story. Additionally, both Miranda and Nicole are beloved friends of mine. But I like to think that I can still be fairly objective.
This story is one that makes me excited on so many levels. Both of these women are lovely storytellers who create compelling and often complicated characters and who enjoy infusing a sense of wonder and mythos into their stories. And while such partnerships can be challenging, Miranda and Nicole have woven together a unique voice that flows seamlessly between the two voices of the primary protagonists.
The story focuses on the Mrok witches, one Mrok witch in particular, a young woman named Brygida who, like many in her situation, finds herself curious about the human village. Her mothers have one another to love and cherish, but she herself desires love and there seems to be no one (living alone in a forest tends to limits one’s options, something I know from experience 😉 ). Of course, when she goes to the village to participate in an autumn feast, she not only finds fascinating people but someone to whom her heart is drawn to (actually she met him a little earlier and he invited her to the feast but then she learns something despite being drawn to him). Unfortunately, it also seems this charming artist is a murderer. Now naturally, said love interest, a gentle soul as well as lord’s son, insists he is not the murderer. Except, well…things don’t look so good for him. And Brygida must turn the murderer over to the denizens of the lake or she herself will be killed and the rest of the village destroyed.
The worldbuilding itself carries a number of distinctions from a traditional uchronic medieval setting, drawing most heavily on Polish myths and medieval cultures, including the powerful figure of Mokosza, the protector of all women and to whom the Mrok witches are in service.
Despite the fact that the names and the world do reflect the Polish language and medieval mythos, the story itself remains quickly accessible. Not everything is explained in detail but enough is shown and hinted at to make the world feel large enough to sustain more stories and permit additional exploration. What needs to be shown is shown, and the overall flow is well paced, allowing for a solid afternoon’s read with a few natural break points in case you have other things you need to accomplish.
This story itself is also one which makes the journey well worth your while. There is a mystery component, one that is central to the plot. Brygida finds herself in the unfortunate position of having to investigate this man whom she may be falling for.
Without giving away any spoilers, I will say that the Brygida and Kaspian’s meet cute is adorable. There is a sweetness to it and a sweetness to their relationship throughout the story despite the direness of their circumstances and the unfortunate events that transpire. Brygida herself is a powerful character, coming into her own and learning to manage a difficult situation while also having to cope with disappointments about those whom she cares about and that sometimes…people lie.
My favorite part of the story, however, is the landscape and the worldbuilding. A friend of mine observed that great fantasy authors tend to excel in descriptions in a few areas in particular and that even one of those areas can make the story sing. In this case, it’s the landscape and the overall atmosphere of the community and woods. It is a beautiful place, rich with descriptions of the natural life of this country and the beautiful yet foreboding woods which surrounds this community. It is a place I would love to visit. To simply experience and enjoy in silence.
I highly recommend Feast of the Mother for those who love myth based stories and especially those who are looking for something that is not one of the more commonly featured mythologies and is an eastern European based story. It is also good for those who enjoy a slow burn sweet romance with intrigue and mystery as well as a search for justice and complicated situations. It is a fast but satisfying read, perfect for wrapping up the summer or just treating yourself to a quiet evening, if you can get one of those. And while the series is set to continue, the story’s conclusion feels as if it strikes just the right notes to end and to leave you satisfied, simply eager for the adventure to open again and the characters or at least the world to continue.