Shadow of the Moon by M.M. Kaye

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The only way I’d be able to name an absolute favorite author is if someone dangled me over a ledge and said cough up a name or else. I mean, there are just too many I love to be able to give just one name unless under direct threat of death.

However. If I was in imminent peril, then I suppose the name that would come flying out of my mouth is M.M. Kaye. Some of you might know her from The Far Pavilions, her two tome masterpiece set in colonial India during the second Afghan war and a well known mini series from 1984. I can’t say I’ve ever seen the series. I’m concerned that the cheese factor that tends to coat these types of productions from the 80’s might forever ruin the story for me.

But the book I want to highlight today is M.M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon. The setting is the Indian Mutiny in colonial British India (a setting Kaye is intimately familiar with) in the 1850’s. But it’s so much more than simply a book about the Mutiny. The author carefully brings us toward the shocking outbreak of violence and horror that is the Mutiny by building up with quiet scenes of unrest and the growing relationship between the main characters, Winter and Alex.

Born in India but raised in England after being orphaned at a young age, Winter de Ballesteros (one of my favorite names for a character ever!) views her days in India through rose colored glasses and longs to return. Her chance to do so comes when she is engaged at seventeen to the much older Conway Barton, the drug-addicted and dissolute Commissioner of Lunjore. She is escorted to her betrothed by a reluctant Captain Alex Randall, who disapproves of the match and is aware of the unrest hovering just below the surface in India.

Against the sordid backdrop of Winter’s life in India with the unsavory Conway Barton and the deepening distrust between native Sepoys and their British commanders, Winter and Alex’s relationship unfolds naturally amidst the tragedy of the 1857 Rebellion. Here is where I caution that there are some incredibly grisly scenes that play out as the Mutiny gains strength. In particular, M.M. Kaye describes the massacre at Cawnpore in such vivid detail that it made my stomach turn.

Shadow of the Moon is both a wonderfully written work of historical fiction and a beautifully told historical romance. Winter is a plucky heroine and Alex is a swoon worthy hero and the payoff at the end is well worth the read, even if the lush historical detail is not your cup of tea.

If you’d like to learn more about the Indian Rebellion of 1857, check this out. And there is a wonderful autobiography out on M.M. Kaye, The Sun in the Morning – a fascinating woman who lived and breathed India for much of her life. I also recommend M.M. Kaye’s Trade Wind which stars two more characters whose names I adore: Hero Hollis and Emory ‘Rory’ Frost.

And lastly, M.M. Kaye wrote a lovely children’s book, The Ordinary Princess about a girl who is blessed with being ordinary. What a great idea for a princess story, no?

Do you have a favorite setting for your historical fiction reads?

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Interested in reading Shadow of the Moon? Find it at your local library or one of the retailers below.

In print:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell’s |

Not available in E-book format.




4 Responses

  1. M.M. Kaye also wrote a series of “Death in…” books: Death in Kashmir, Death in Kenya, Death in Cyprus, etc. (All of which I own!) Thanks for reminding me! I’ll pull them off the shelf. As to a favorite setting, I hope it is always the one of the current work in progress or release. I tend to like settings at the edge of the norm. Scottish Borders instead of Highlands, for example.

  2. I shouldn’t have left those out! Wonderful mysteries. Death in Kashmir was my favorite of the bunch, but they are all worth another read. As to settings, I’m with you on Scotland at the moment – wild and beautiful locale *and* men in kilts? Hard to beat. (-:

  3. Thank you for reminding me of this book. I didn’t watch the 80’s series, Far Pavillions, though I remember my aunt being completely engrossed. Kaye’s attention to detail is breathtaking and I see echoes of her skill in Meredith Duran’s DUKE OF SHADOWS.

  4. Ohh, just took a peek at The Duke Of Shadows-looks fabulous. Almost like a blend of both The Far Pavilions and Shadow of the Moon, with maybe a touch of Judith McNaught thrown in for good measure? Can’t go wrong with that mix.

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