Welcome to Urte, a world split into two continents called Yuros and Antiopia (or Ahmedhassa). Do you belong in Yuros where mages are well-known and are seen as the better of their non-mage counterparts? Where mages study in the best colleges specifically for them, and families are chosen based on the blood-ranking of their gnosis? Or do you belong in Antiopia, a place built on strength and the man's word? Where family means everything and trading spices, foods and other wares is the profitable industry? Find yourself mesmerised by the depth created in David Hair's fantasy world, a quartet of books that follows the lives of many characters that lead you through the failures and successes that life throws at you, and the political games played in the midst of corruption and destruction.
The four books in this series are called Mage's Blood, Scarlet Tides, Unholy War and Ascendant's Rite, and they all follow the stories of characters spread out across Yuros and Antiopia. It is a series written with an omniscient narrator where many characters perspectives are portrayed. Of all the people we are introduced to the main voices that are followed are Alaron Mercer and his best friend Ramon Sensini, both young mages who attended college in Yuros together; Cymbella de Regia, a gyspsy with an unknown mage blood-ranking and is taught by Alaron and Ramon; Elena Anborn, a mage protector of the Nesti family with a dark past; Cera Nesti, a young princess in Javon, Antiopia; Gurvon Gyle, a mage spy with a lot of power in the politics in Yuros; Ramita Ankesharan, a young trader's daughter in Baranasi, Antiopia, who will be wedded to the love of her life, Kazim Makani; and lastly Malevorn Andevarian, a determined pure-blooded mage who desires power to bring his family back from ruin.
These are only a few of the characters we meet along our journey in Urte. Other perspectives are provided when necessary, and other story-lines are added to highlight important events or create historical contexts. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a journal entry or text that resides in Urte that explains different aspects that will become relevant in that particular chapter. It also allows the reader to learn more about the lore and world created by Hair that might not reside specifically in the story.
It all begins in Mage's Blood, which starts a year before the moontide. This represents the the time before a crusade, where preparations to cross over the Leviathan Bridge to earn money in trading or fight to assert dominance over the other continent begin. This series follows the Third Crusade, and during this first instalment we are given the background knowledge of the past crusades. We also learn about the characters and their personalities, and we are given hints of future events in the subtle foreshadowing as each profile is created.
The Third Crusade begins in Scarlet Tides and this is when we are introduced to the corruption that separates this crusade from the past ones. Mage's gave Yuros the advantage in the other crusades but that is not the case any more with the introduction of the Hadishah. The political games begin to unravel as the Scytale of Corineus travels in the hands of Alaron across Urte and the desperation of power is revealed as he is hunted down for the artefact. Powerful mages are killed, others are created, and the war only emphasises the crisis and devastation that will occur in the rest of the series.
Unholy War and Ascendant's Rite expand on these themes, but also highlight the unlikely relationships that form when one's survival is at risk. Soldier's from Yuros find love in the women of Antiopia, and souldrinker's and mage's work together for a common cause. Altogether, the series underlines life lessons that can be translated into the real world by using the different cultures, beliefs and even blood-rankings to coincide with the differences found outside of the series. For example, Antiopia has deep beliefs in men residing in power and women living very old-fashioned stereotypical lives in being only breeders, carers and cooks. However, this is challenged by the rise of powerful women in Cera Nesti and Ramita Ankesharan. There is also a focus on accepting others for their differences, like a group of mercenaries known for their sexual interests with people of the same gender--a punishment of death in Antiopia--and people not wanting to fight with them for that reason. Nonetheless, this group becomes very important in the survival of the Javonese people later in the series. There are also other underlying themes, such as not letting failure determine who you are or that love can be found in anyone no matter how different the partnership can be.
The Moontide Quartet is a powerful series and with or without noticing these themes noted above it still is an amazing adventure. The complexities of each character and the world around them draw us in, and through this we are enveloped into the world of Urte. Not only are we the reader but we become a citizen of Urte, a friend to the characters, and so much more.
What I thought
What an incredible series. The layers of complexity in each character, chapter, culture and more was so fascinating right from the beginning. The way I was transported between the two continents and their beliefs and perspectives was breathtaking, and I was never bored of any of the characters. There was never a moment where I thought to myself Cera is so boring or Alaron's story is my favourite because each one is so different from the other that comparing them in that way would not do them justice.
I have always been a lover of fantasy series because of the new world that is created. Fantasy is a difficult genre to master because there are many aspects that need to be covered, such as the history and lore of the world. The little excerpts of texts at the beginning of each chapter really helped in the creation of Urte by providing context that would have otherwise been missed.
One part of this series I really enjoyed was the realism that is translated through the characters. The way they acted, the way they spoke, and the way they encapsulated the culture they grew up with never felt fake or forced. I found myself relating to the characters in how they felt and thought, which is something that will always make me fall in love with a story, and living through the growth of their maturity when faced with the threat of survival was very interesting. I also adored the way the political games were played. The way the higher powers in Pallas could 'place the pieces on the tabula board' was so fascinating to me and also made me think of Machiavelli's The Prince, drawing on the advice he writes about and how they are represented in these characters.
As I have mentioned in a previous review, I would not recommend children reading this series. As much as I loved reading fantasy books and series when I grew up, I don't think my innocent brain would have been able to cope with some of the scenes. There are definitely some highly detailed accounts of passion between characters, and there are also quite a few violent scenes as well. However, I would recommend this series to anyone who loves fantasy or adventures because it is such an amazing series with so much depth. Even if you're not hooked on fantasy, I would recommend giving it a go because of the relevant issues that are embedded in this series. I understand that some people might not want to read this book because of some of the detailed scenes. However, they do calm down and don't occur as much as the series goes on. This is also a great series if you're into a lot of action because there are many adrenaline pumping scenes where it is very hard to put down the book.
If you have read this series, let me know what you think! If you feel inspired to read it, definitely do so as it is a fantastic series, and then tell me about how your experience was as I'm very curious to hear/read your opinions. Also, if you know of any series or books similar to this one, suggest it to me and I'll make sure to read it. Let the story be ignited within you, and allow yourself the opportunity to ignite the story!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.