Urban Fantasy Book Review: The Stag and the Moon by Alice Duffield

Urban Fantasy Book Review

Title
The Stag and the Moon
Author
Alice Duffield
Publication Date: September 11th 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy

Every once in a while you get offered an indie or small press read that just hits all the right spots, a book that clicks with you in a way few mass-market titles can. The Stag and the Moon by Alice Duffield is just such a book.

With a mixture of mythology, urban fantasy, transgender wish fulfillment, friends-to-lovers romance, and supernatural horror, this was a fun read that was full of surprises along the way. 

Kore is every inch the chosen one (just one of the genre tropes that Duffield plays with), a deity in mortal garb who has no idea who or what he is (another of those genre tropes given a twist). Not only does he not know he's divine, he doesn't know that he's really a woman either, courtesy of a spell designed to protect him until he comes of age. Little slips and glimpses of 'her' sprinkle the story as that blessed birthday approaches, and the ultimate reveal, when it comes, is handled with tact and triumph. While a part of me wishes the story had explored more of Kore's uncertainty in becoming a woman, I also like the fact that he doesn't become a woman, she always was a woman.

As much as I liked Kore's story, it's her friends who made the book for me, particularly Keira. She's a smart, strong, stunning woman, a self-made success story in an up-and-coming cryptocurrency company. She falls prey to the darker side of the story's mythology, one that delves into the realm of monsters and mind control, and even as she falls under the spell of another woman, compelled to commit acts of cruelty in her name, she also brings her smarts to play, transforming the ranks of minions. There's an element of sapphic power-exchange erotica in that relationship, and it's one that reveals deeper feelings for her friend, Brianna, the third member of the feminine power trio. I liked a lot of Brianna's character, especially her role as sidekick/protector, but for all that she seems destined to save the world alongside Kore, it's through her relationship with Keira that she has the greatest impact on the story.

While a few things come a little too easily and quickly, and the middle arc of the story is a bit of a lull, those are minor complaints. The character dynamics are fantastic, the mythology is developed very well, and the blend of light and dark, good and evil, is compelling. The Stag and the Moon has a big climax, a supernatural battle where the lives of friends and lovers are very much at risk, and it all pays off beautifully in the end.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 

My sincere thanks to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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