The protagonist in Moon Child, Valentina, known to her friends as Vale, is an eighteen-year-old Cuban-American living in Southern Florida. She’s been raised mainly by her mother and grandparents, her father having died when she was younger. The family are strict Catholics, but Vale is having second thoughts about her religion and her curiosity leads her to explore other forms of worship. Slated to go on a yearly retreat with her best friend, she decides to ditch and instead visit her half-sister, who she has never met, in a small town in rural Florida. Once there, she is mesmerized by what she believes is a black wolf who leads her to the rotting carcass of what was once a splendid art deco hospital/sanitarium/resort – The Sunlake Springs Resort. Inside she discovers a group of teenagers who have extraordinary psychic abilities and whose goal is to open a portal to allow the spirits that inhabit the Sunlake to find their final peace. All they need is one more of their kind. Vale is well-suited to that role, having hands that can feel beyond the surface, able to divine the feelings and motivations that lie underneath. But does she want to accept this role? And, is the Sunlake just a receptacle for lost souls or is it the home of something much more sinister?
This was a very intriguing southern Gothic novel. The Sunlake is a treasure-trove of Gothic imagery and Traina’s descriptive prose truly brings the resort to life. The plot builds slowly as Vale tries to find her true path. She knows it’s tied to her dead father, who she hopes to meet in the spirit world after she and the others open the portal. Surprises abound as Vale tries to navigate her way not only through the resort, but through the true motivations of the other teens.
This was a very good novel with just a couple of downsides for me. At times, I found Vale’s character to be irritating with her constant harping on her faith and an aborted encounter with a young man the year before. Also, I had difficulty picturing some of the other gifted teens and felt their characters could have been just a tad more fully fleshed.
But the character of the Sunlake, much like that of the Overlook Hotel, towers over everything and if you enjoy Southern Gothic, you don’t want to miss Moon Child.
I want to thank the author for providing me with a free copy of Moon Child in consideration of a Bram Stoker Award.