The Moonsteel Crown


Stephen Deas


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

October 16, 2021

nce again I browsed through the New in Paperback shelves at the library, and once again I selected a fantasy novel by an author that I had never heard of - and once again I struck gold. Does this mean that there are a multitude of good new fantasy authors working out there? The answer has to be yes. Though in this case, the author, Stephen Deas, isn't a new author, he has been writing for a while, I just had never heard of any of his works. Apparently he has written a seven volume series called The Memory of Flames, along with other works. The book I read was The Moonsteel Crown, which is the start of a new series. Deas says in the afterword that the main characters will return in The Book of Endings. I will have to keep an eye out for that.

The Moonsteel Crown is the story of three characters: Seth, the failed priest; Myla, the sword monk who is on the run; and Fings, a superstitious thief who can steal seemingly anything. The three of them get talked into a scheme to steal a box by Sulfane. Sulfane's instructions seem straightforward: sneak out to a barge, elude the guards, and retrieve a particular box - "But don't open it!! - and anything else that Fings picks up along the way, he can keep. Of course, they are successful. Fings can steal anything. But, Fings opens the box...

I enjoyed the characters in the The Moonsteel Crown. Myla is an expert swordswoman, armed with two lightweight Sunsteel blades, and she knows how to use them lethally. Myla is on the run from unfortunate circumstances back in Deephaven, and she has washed up in Varr and hangs out in The Pig, drinking more than she ought to. Fings is a bold thief, but he knows Mages Day is unlucky, so it best not to try any big jobs on that day. Fings has an uncanny sense of danger, often something just "doesn't feel right" and he will alter his plans. Seth was a brilliant student, but he was too curious about researching topics that were forbidden. Seth eagerly sought dark knowledge, longing to know about ancient magic and the power of sigils. But his teachers couldn't tolerate a disobedient rule breaker like him, especially since Seth was so focused on dark sorcery. Seth was ousted from the order, and now he ekes out a meager living trying to sell leftover food from The Pig.

I liked Deas' world building. The action all takes place in Varr, but there is a sense of a much bigger empire with major events going on. There are ancient catacombs beneath the city, there are dead men walking the streets. The Spicers gang is stirring up trouble for Blackhand's gang. It is winter, and the snow and the cold freeze Varr and the countryside.

The story is told entirely from the perspective of Fings, Myla and Seth (in alternating chapters); three rogues who end up involved in a conspiracy that is beyond their understanding. The Moonsteel Crown is crucial to the ascension to the Emperor's Throne, so possession of it is a powerful weapon. There seemed to be three different factions after the crown - the mages under the sorceress Princess-Regent, the Torpreahns (a powerful city within the empire), and the mysterious Khrozus supporters, Khrozus being a missing twelfth city annihilated by some kind of mage war? I never really grasped the big picture. The stakes for ownership of the Moonsteel Crown were high, but since Fings / Myla / Seth were unconcerned with the politics of the elite, I didn't get enough background to follow the machinations of the groups struggling for the throne. Which of those three groups did I want to see ultimately possess the crown? It seemed like there was some backstory here that I missed, as if there were an earlier volume in a series.

I enjoyed this book and would read more books from Deas if I see them on the library bookshelf, especially the forthcoming sequel The Book of Endings.