The Crescent Stpme


Matt Mikalatos


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

May 1, 2021

he Crescent Stone is the first book in the Sunlit Lands trilogy. The heroine is Madeline Oliver, a teenage girl who has a degenerative disease that is slowly killing her (Cystic fibrosis? I am not sure the specific disease ever identified). Madeline is trying hard to be a normal girl attending high school, but she just isn't strong enough to survive a day walking around. Madeline collapses, but another student, Jason Wu, rushes her to the hospital. As Madeline lies in her hospital bed, facing death, a strange character walks into her room. This is outlandish character is Hanali, and he makes an unbelievable offer to Madeline - if she will serve the Elenil for one year in their war against the Scim, then the Elenil will cure her completely. It sounds too good to be true, but Madeline will soon die, so she has to take the offer.

Jason walks in while Hanali is bargaining with Madeline. Hanali asks: "How are you unaffected by my spell?" Jason shrugs. He says: "The world is full of mysteries". Unfortunately, this issue is never addressed again - Hanali's spell has stopped time while he recruits Madeline, so how is it that Jason is unaffected by the spell, unlike all other humans? Even more troubling, Jason has promised to always tell the truth, no matter what the consequences may be. Yet on this crucial issue, right at the beginning of the book, Jason is clearly lying (at least, I hope he is lying - this issue is not addressed further in the first book, but I assume Matt Mikalatos will provide a good explanation later in the trilogy why Jason is not affected by the spell.) If Jason's immunity to Hanali spell is never explained, that would be a grievous plot error on the part of the author. I will address some other troubling plot points in the spoiler section below.

Jason and Madeline slip on the magic bracelets that Hanali give them, and sure enough, they are transported to the Sunlit Lands and the wonderous Court of Far Seeing. At first, Jason and Madeline are dazzled by the wonders and beauty on display by the Elenil, but soon there are hints of a secret darkness. Jason is assigned to be a warrior in the battles with the Scim - he doesn't need training, when Jason picks up a bow, he assumes the power of an expert archer. Somewhere in the Elenil land, a master bowman loses his skill so that Jason may temporarily acquire his ability. This is the central idea to Mikalatos story - the conservation of magic. When magic causes something to happen here, there is a corresponding consequence somewhere else. It takes a while for the consequences of this magic balancing to sink in to Jason and Madeline. For example, the Court of Far Seeing is always bathed in sunlight, it is never night time. But this means the sunshine must come from somewhere - it turns out the lands of the Scim never get sunnier than a dim twilight, the Elenil steal all their sunshine.

The Scim and the Elenil have been battling for centuries, Hanali is one of the youngest Elenil, and he is 300 years old. An army of the Scim approach the Court, demanding that the Elenil return five magic artifacts of the Scim, but of course the Elenil refuse, because those magic artifacts would give the Scim greater war-like powers to attack. The Scim transform into their battle skins, which make them into huge, muscular, tusked creatures that look like trolls. Battle is joined, and Jason utilizes his expert archery skills. But the Scim have recently been joined by the Black Skulls, new warriors with incredible powers and the battle is a desperate fight. Jason takes a tremendous blow from a Black Skull that crushes his chest, it is surely a mortal blow.

Madeline is serving as an aide to a powerful Elenil healer Gilenyia. After the battle, Madeline and Gilenyai wander over the field of combat, healing wounded warriors. But due to the conservation of magic, healing someone means transferring the injury to someone else. They find Jason quickly dying from his crushed chest, and heal him by transferring his grievous injury to a dying Scim warrior named Night's Breath. Jason is fully healed, but Night's Breath is dead.

There is a lot to like about The Crescent Stone. Mikalatos has plenty of interesting ideas about consequences of magic and ambiguous morality - it soon becomes clear that the Elenil are not paragons of justice and truth, nor are the Scim wholly evil and unjust. There is are many unanswered mysteries - who is the Garden Lady, and what is her part in all of this? What is Hanali's true intention when he brings Madeline into the Sunlit Lands? Why did the green lady give Madeline a beautiful, venomous stone flower after asking her to come to Aluvorea and help her people? Why doesn't anyone worry about the missing flying magic user? Why wouldn't the Scim just murder Shula, the fire-using magic user - what's the point of keeping her captive?

Unfortunately, although Mikalatos has a lot of good ideas, I wish he had put more thought into his story. I feel The Crescent Stone ended on balanced on a precipice - book 2, The Heartwood Crown, could go either way - will it fall into a mire of nonsense and bad plotting, or Mikaltos avoid more of these plotting mistakes and deliver a compelling story? It is hard to guess which way the narrative will go, so I will probably read book 2 and hope the story builds on its promising ideas.

!!!*** Warning. Major Plot Spoilers. Do NOT read if you intend to read this novel!!

The Elenil have permanent daylight because they steal light from the Scim lands at night - but the Scim lands are just a few days ride from the Elenil. Which means that when it is night time for the Elenil, it is also night time for the Scim - there is no daylight to steal from the Scim at that time.

The Elenil magic fails for one night, during the Festival of the Turning. The Scim use this opportunity to attack the Far Seeing Court. Jason cannot use his bow with magical enhancement - but where is the Elenil who has the archery skill that Jason borrowed? During the battles with the Scim, enhanced humans used weapons with great skill- skill transferred to them from great Elenil warriors. But when the Scim attack the Elenil City, where are these Elenil warriors? There should be an army of incredible Elenil warriors using their own abilities. But these elite Elenil warriors do not defend the city. (By the way, Mikalatos appears to have borrowed the idea of using magic to transfer skills from one man to another from David Farland, who wrote about a similar idea in his book The Sum of All Men).

Why are Madeline and Jason wandering around in the crowd just before darkness falls at the Festival of the Turning? They KNOW that when the Elenil magic fails, Madeline will be unable to breath and will collapse. They should be safe in the castle, so that Madeline is already lying in bed before her breathing fails. But no, even as darkness falls, they are not running to the castle, but instead are admiring the stars in the suddenly dark sky. The stupidity of their decision annoyed me greatly.

The Scim attack - Jason and Madeline are cornered on a roof top without a chance of escape. Jason grabs Madeline and falls backwards of the roof, apparently believing it is better to die with their brains dashed on the cobblestones rather than be skewered on a Scim sword. But Madeline and Jason happen to land in the back of a speeding hay wagon that carries them away from the Scim warriors. What a horrible deux ex machina! That is terrible plotting. Why would there be a hay wagon in the crowded streets during the middle of crowded festival?

Break Bones leads the Scim attack on the castle. He is determined to kill Madeline. Again, Madeline is trapped, her death is inevitable. But why is Break Bones trying to kill Madeline? The Scim are lead by Darius - Madeline's boyfriend, who followed a magic opossum to the Scim lands and became a Black Skull. Darius is determined to rescue Madeline, yet he hangs back, allowing his general Break Bones to pursue his goal of trying to kill Madeline? Only by desperate action does Madeline escape from Break Bones, allowing Darius to pick her up with his magic owl. But she should have been slain by Break Bones - what kind of stupid plan is that by Darius?

Madeline is horrified to learn that the Elenil magic allows her to breathe by transferring her disease to a Scim child. Why don't the Elenil disperse the disease? ie: give one percent of her sickness to a hundred Scim. Surely a hundred Scim could survive with just a one percent loss of their lung capacity - why transfer all the injuries and sickness to a single individual?

At the end of the novel, Madeline chooses to break her contract with the Elenil by swing a sword down on the magic bracelet that Hanali gave her. This makes no sense - the bracelet was absorbed into her body when she put it on, it looks like a tattoo (that was spreading ominously) now - there is no bracelet to strike. Did Madeline cut off her hand? No, she loses her ability to breathe, but she still has both hands. Is this just a plotting mistake?

Bailey gives Jason a golden armband. She doesn't tell Jason that his means he is now betrothed to her. And by becoming engaged to Bailey, a Kakri warrior, it means for the next year all the Kakri will try to kill him. There is so much wrong with this awful idea. How would any of the Kakri get married if the tribe tried to kill anyone who got betrothed. Think of all the bloodshed - some of the Kakri would certainly perish trying to kill the prospective grooms, and of course many of the would-be-grooms would not survive the murderous attempts of the Kakri warriors. What sane tribe would adopt such a ridiculous tradition, and why? This is one of the many missteps that make me fear that book 2 of the Sunlit Lands is going to flounder in the mire of ridiculousness. Hopefully, Matt Mikalatos can right the ship, but there is a lot that needs fixing...