Esmes Indie Author Highlights: Moroda by L.L. McNeil

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The book starts out with a jail break! The main character, Moroda, has been jailed and been told she’s going to be beheaded for defying a foreign noble and publicly disagreeing with him while he was making an announcement. She’s been put in jail with two others, Amarah and Sapora. Amarah is a sky pirate and Sapora is a part of a race called the Vakarian which are feared and second class citizens through much of the world. They are a humanoid species with sharp teeth and a reputation for bloodshed and uncivil behavior, often called “snakes” because their species can shape shift into various kinds of snakes.

One of the central plots to the book is figuring out why dragons are fucking shit up – after the jail break a dragon comes to the city of Nerversai and is on the attack. What’s cool about this world though is that it’s not normal for a dragon to go ape shit and start burning things, most of the time they are rather indifferent to people unless provoked, like someone stealing their eggs. The main characters are on a quest to figure out why the dragons behavior is changing and if there’s anything they can do to stop it.

There’s also a political upheaval with the Arallian race trying to take over the world with this creepy leader that has some kind of magic in the power of his voice, kind of like mind control.

The lore, cultures and history of this world are very well realized, many times a debut novel will have a smaller scope but this one gives us a bunch of different cities, with different races of humanoids with different powers, and it follows a bunch of different characters as well.

Some quick character impressions I had after the first 100 pages:

Moroda: main character, generally a good person freeing the Varkarian from jail even though she was afraid of him, speaks her mind and has a sense of adventure

Eryn: Morodas younger sister, more conservative and cautious but usually in good spirits

Amorah: kind of a bitch, sky pirate, survivor, distrusts multiple ethnicities – kinda racist.

Morgen: 22 year old city watchmen, average joe just trying to do his job, but worried with the increasing amount of orders he disagrees with, fears he won’t be able to behead someone he doesn’t think deserves it

Sapora: unknown motivations, seems to like messing with people and has no issues with violence. When his character first appeared he was covered in blood and chained to a wall. Vakarian.

Khol: dragon hunter, part of the Arallian race

Anahrik – an Ittallan shapeshifter, weapons merchant, turns into a hawk.

There are different kinds of magic in this book, my favorite was the Samolen magic which uses music and crystals. When the characters arrive in their city it’s night time and there’s music being played through the city which heals, the city has different colored torches burning over the doorways of houses and it created a very cool atmosphere.

The Itallan shapeshifting magic follows some general rules – each family has a distinct “form” they will take like cats or birds, but the individuals spirit/soul will determine *which* kind of cat or bird the person will become. Anahrik comes from a family of birds, he also loves speed and racing so he transforms into a hawk.

I think the pacing was overall well done, it didn’t drag too much and in general there was a lot going on. I think the world was internally consistent and also pretty expansive, multiple cities were explored and there was lore and culture to go along with those cities so they all felt distinct and realized.


* People who like a lot of magic in their books, you know right away in this book you’re reading fantasy

* People who like a bit of steam punk, there are air ships and sky pirates

* People who like shape shifting, dragons, and various non human races

* People who don’t mind reading an unpolished work, although I really liked this book it is noticeable that it’s a debut novel and can be rough around the edges.

* People who like a lot of characters


This wasn’t set up in SPFBO style, I may come back and change it

Characters: 8/10

Plot: 8/10

World Building 8/10

Pacing 7/10

Writing 7/10

Originality 8/10

Final Score: 46/60 or 7.7/10 or 4 stars on goodreads


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