Book Review: The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Moon Sister…

About the Book:

Tiggy Aplièse is doing the job she loves; working at a deer sanctuary up in the raw beauty of the highlands of Scotland. When the sanctuary has to close, she is offered a job on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate as a wildlife consultant by the elusive and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird, she has no idea that the move will not only irrevocably alter her future, but ironically, bring her into contact with her past. She meets Chilly, an ancient gypsy, who has lived for years on the estate, having fled from Spain seventy years before. He tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her gypsy ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home.

It is 1912 and, in the pitifully poor gypsy community that have been forced to make their homes for hundreds of years outside the city walls of Granada in the seven caves of Sacromonte, under the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra Palace, Lucía Amaya-Albaycin is born. Destined to be the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation, La Candela – as she is named, due to the inner flame that burns through her when she dances- is whisked away by her ambitious father at the tender age of ten to dance to his guitar in the flamenco bars of Barcelona. Her mother, Maria, is devastated by the loss of her daughter, and as civil war threatens in Spain, tragedy strikes the rest of her family. Now in Madrid, Lucía and her troupe of dancers are forced to flee for their lives, their journey taking them far across the water to South America and eventually, to North America and New York itself – Lucía’s long-held dream. But to pursue it, she must choose between her passion for her career and the man she adores.

As Tiggy follows the trail back to her exotic but complex Spanish past, and – under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja – begins to accept and develop her own gift, she too must decide to whether to return to Kinnaird, and Charlie.

My Thoughts:

‘And at last, with the thought of my roots extending back over five hundred years, something stirred in my heart, as I began to feel the unbroken invisible thread that connected us all.’

The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley is the fifth book in the Seven Sisters series. It’s the story of Tiggy, who up until now, has been a bit of an enigma, not featuring all that much at all in the previous four novels. Consequently, I went into this novel with no real preconceived notions about who she was and what to expect – a refreshing change, particularly as the two previous novels about Star and CeCe were both reasonably well developed, character wise, from the very beginning of the series. Unfortunately, the next sister, Electra, who will feature in book six, has been fully fleshed out and she’s not a character I’m looking forward to, the sneak peak at the back of this book confirming that she is typical of my least preferred character type: ‘the wasted celebrity who just wants to be loved’. I’m hedging my bets that out of the whole series, my two favourite sisters will remain Maia and Ally, from books one and two respectively. You might wonder why I’m even referring to the previous books, much less the next that hasn’t even been released, but this series is a fairly comprehensive and lengthy one, making it all the more difficult to assess each instalment in isolation.

I really appreciated the historical thread of this novel. Set primarily in Granada, the story was like a moving element, making its way through the years and the exotic locations in equal measure: Barcelona, Madrid, Portugal, all through South America, up into North America, and then back to Granada, in Sacromonte, where the story originally began. The atmosphere was richly detailed, the eras recreated with historical significance. My favourite parts were those set in Sacromonte, as I found the history of this place particularly fascinating. I have previously read a novel set in 15th century Granada, Court of Lions, so my interest in this part of the world was already piqued. But whereas Court of Lions was about the last Sultan of Granada, The Moon Sister is about the Granadian Gypsies who settled in Granada after the Christian conquest of the city in 1492. The story here begins in 1912, where the descendants of those original Granadian Gypsies are living in caves built into the slopes of Cerro de San Miguel on the edge of the Camino del Sacromonte. This ‘neighbourhood’ exists outside the walls of the city, and has done so since the 16th century. It is filled with poverty, its inhabitants marginalised, living on the fringes in a manner that differs little from centuries gone by. The Sacromonte offers views of indescribable beauty: the towers of the Alhambra, the white slopes of the Albaycin, the Valparaiso valley and the River Darro. For the gypsies inhabiting this area, their isolation was a curious mix of self imposed – to protect their racial purity – and centuries of being shunned. The poverty was profound. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like, dwelling in these caves. Google doesn’t offer much insight as they’ve all been restored into fashionable boutique dwellings now for tourism, and despite tags of ‘authenticity’ being applied, I highly doubt they really looked like what is being represented today. The heat must have been extreme, this is Spain after all, and the climb for water, up and down mountain paths. It almost beggars belief. But there was such a strong sense of community and culture, despite the apparent hardships. Anyway, I found this entire history well rendered, it truly captivated me. I love how historical fiction can bring such far flung worlds to life.

‘I paused and looked up at the Alhambra. It had stood there for almost a thousand years, solid as the earth it had been built upon. It had watched the trials and tribulations of us humans – from the Moors of a millennium ago, to Isabella of Spain, to me – and I suddenly thought that Ally was right, and that our lives were so fleeting compared to anything taken from the earth. In the valley below me, trees had stood there for hundreds of years, and even after they were pulled from the earth, had provided furniture from their sturdy bodies that still remained long after the people that had sat down on them had passed on.’

I had expected – hoped for – a bit more detail on the Spanish Civil War, but our characters fled on the first night, so it touched them in a ‘second-hand’ kind of way. Later, after the war, more of the devastation was alluded to when Maria returned to Granada, a mention of the ‘clearing out’ of the gypsies from the Sacromonte caves and the fate of her own family, but the story swiftly moved on. The focus was primarily on Lucia, the flamenco dancer, who was Tiggy’s grandmother, and I have to say, a truly ridiculous human being. Her ignorance shone as brightly as her dancing talents. I had to keep reminding myself she was an adult, her behaviour was childish in the extreme. Take this instance as an example, where a five star hotel in New York refuses her hospitality:

‘“Lucia, they might not be so happy about what you did to their expensive wooden cabinets when we were last here.”
“Well, how else was I supposed to grill my sardines? I needed wood for fire!” she insisted.’

Trashing hotel rooms, 1940s style! But really, she couldn’t have just called room service and asked for grilled sardines? Lucia was a character that erred on the side of too much. She was filthy, always dirty and stinking, her living space as well as her own person. She was pigheaded and ignorant, selfish and overly dramatic. I kind of hated her, but fortunately her supporting cast, for the most part, were much more appealing, particularly her mother Maria, her brother Pepe, and her lover Menique. I was able to tolerate these sections with Lucia at the helm in part because these other characters seemed to be fully aware of exactly what Lucia was really like, yet the gypsy mantra of sticking together meant that they put up with her behaviour and just soldiered on. Lucia had never received an education, could not even write her own name, and at the age of ten, she was taken from her mother by her father and pressed into child labour as a flamenco dancer while he played guitar. Much was made of her extraordinary talent, but by the time she reached adulthood, her talent was all she had to offer. She was a pretty toxic person, truly ignorant, not even comprehending the world outside of dancing enough to realise that a war had broken out right on her doorstep. Bombs were raining down and she just kept on dancing, risking the lives of everyone around her because she was too stupid to listen to Menique’s warnings.

‘He also wondered at Lucia’s level of emotional maturity.’

Don’t worry Menique, I was wondering the same thing myself!

There was a fair bit of hocus pocus gypsy woo-woo in this novel, probably a bit too much for my liking, but each to their own. Tiggy was a solid character, strong in her principles and steady in her focus. The ending to the contemporary storyline was a tad cliché, and certainly a little too convenient, and I felt Tiggy acted a bit too much out of character for it to really fly. I don’t want to spoil anything but if I say ‘Frasergate’ here, you’ll know what I mean when you get to that part. Anything at all to do with animals and Tiggy’s interaction with them was beautifully done. I really liked that whole ‘Mother Nature’ aspect of Tiggy’s characterisation. It was also very nice to see Maia and Ally pop up in this novel for a bit of sisterly interaction with Tiggy. This character cross over solidified the sisters as a family unit, as opposed to six individual women going their separate ways to search for their ‘true family’. One thing though that is wearing thin is the whole mystery surrounding Pa Salt, not just his death, but even his life. I find it really hardly to believe that none of the daughters know what their father did for a living. That just seems a little far fetched. And I’m highly dubious about the adoptions of these girls in the first place. Rich single man, just happens to be in the right place at the right time, anywhere in the world, to take home a baby. He makes international adoption seem rather easy. But my real bug bear here is the allusion that he may still be alive. This has been drip fed to us since the first book, and I felt we were on the verge of actually finding something out in Tiggy’s story, only to have the plot turn 180 degrees away from further elaboration. Managing a mystery over a series this long is a delicate balance but my patience is beginning to wear thin. Don’t even get me started on the missing seventh sister.

I did enjoy this novel, but it’s not my favourite out of the series. Essential reading though if you are travelling along this Seven Sisters journey like I am. This book felt longer than the others, but a check on the page count confirms this is more about my reaction to it than the actual amount of pages. I am looking forward to this series wrapping up, but as yet, I’m not sure if it has one book left or two – another mystery! Three and a half cups but I’m not able to picture it that way as I have no half cup emoji.


About the Author:

Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland, and after an early career as an actress in film, theatre and television, wrote her first book aged twenty-four. Her books have been translated into over thirty languages and sold fifteen million copies worldwide. She is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller. Lucinda is currently writing The Seven Sisters series, which tells the story of adopted sisters and is based allegorically on the mythology of the famous star constellation. The first five books, The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister, The Shadow Sister, The Pearl Sister and The Moon Sister have all been No.1 bestsellers across Europe, and the rights to a multi-season TV series have already been optioned by a Hollywood production company.

The Moon Sister

Published by Pan Macmillan Australia

Released October 2018

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

  1. Pingback: #BookBingo – Round 4 | Theresa Smith Writes

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