Published 2010 279 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Zephyr Hollis is an underfed, overzealous social activist who teaches night school to the underprivileged of the Lower East Side. Strapped for cash, Zephyr agrees to help a student, the mysterious Amir, who proposes she use her charity worker cover to bring down a notorious vampire mob boss. What he doesn’t tell her is why.
Soon enough she’s tutoring a child criminal with an angelic voice, dodging vampires high on a new blood-based street drug, and trying to determine the real reason behind Amir’s request – all the while attempting to resist his dark, inhuman charm.
Moonshine is the first vampire novel from fantasy author Alaya Johnson, whose previous works include the Spirit Binders fantasy novels published under the name of Alaya Dawn Johnson.
Moonshine is a historical urban fantasy story set in a magical 1920s New York. The story follows the adventures of Zephyr Hollis who makes an unusual urban fantasy heroine. There are no leather pants, big guns or no-holds-barred fist fights for Zephyr. She travels around the city on a rickety bicycle, wears starched shirts and long skirts, and although did take a gun out with her once she deliberately left it unloaded. Preferring her fights to be protests at City Hall against prejudice and social injustice, she’s definitely not a run-of-the-mill urban fantasy heroine…
Moonshine makes good use of its historical setting. The factual basis of Prohibition era of 1920s New York lends itself well to the fantasy elements that the author introduces to the story. After all the 1920s were a boom time for the select few who had the wealth and privilege to enjoy its benefits. The sad reality for the poor was a grinding existence of hard-work, hunger and poverty. Discrimination against minority groups was the accepted norm. The author adds the supernatural into the mix. Vampires are common in the city but are discriminated against widely – leaving most of them living in poverty. Other supernaturals (or Others as this story calls them) such as djinn, fairies, demons and golems live amongst humans but don’t seem to be so despised.
Rising above being just an obvious morality/prejudice tale, Moonshine presents the vampires as a mixture of good and bad. The actions of The Turn Boys, a gang of young vampires running out of control, clearly show why vampires are feared and hated but at the same time the story is balanced by the sympathy that readers can feel for the non-criminal vampires who were turned against their will, still have families to feed and just want to work and live normal lives.
Zephyr’s character is an odd mixture of social activist and ex-vampire hunter. She comes from a demon/vampire hunting family and had taken up the stake herself but then seems to have had a change of heart and has switched to campaigning for Other rights rather than slaying them. This change of heart isn’t particularly well explored, Zephyr herself never really ponders greatly on why she changed sides and for me this is perhaps the one part of the story that seems inconsistent.
However, feel free to ignore my gripe about Zephyr’s character inconsistence because there is plenty to like about Moonshine. The story is well paced and the mystery elements of the story are suitably obtuse – making this is a plotline that is guaranteed to keep readers guessing up to the story’s final pages. Romance, danger, mystery, vampires and a bicycle riding heroine – what more could you wish for?
LoveVampires Review Rating:
You can find out more about this book and read the first chapter online at the author’s website. Visit Alaya Johnson’s website