‘Renia’ (Luna Ruinam Volume #1) by Karl Forshaw – Book Review


The Halls of Venn are the seat of both knowledge and power in the great continent of Luna Ruinam. Renia, a scribe with a tragic past, spends her days expertly copying books that do little to satiate her desire for knowledge.
When a fateful commission lands on her desk, she finds herself tasked with transcribing a book coveted by assassins from the southern continent. Its theft throws the scribing halls into chaos and threatens to destroy the fragile peace that exists between their nations.
Haunted by dreams of her past, Renia must learn to master her impulses and awaken her long dormant magical abilities if she is to prevent war.
Fate, it would seem, is eager to grant her wishes. Yet she must risk everything to pursue it, and pay the bloody price it demands.

Content Warning: This book contains dark themes that some readers may find unsettling.

Title – Renia [‘Luna Ruinam’ Volume #1]

Author – Karl Forshaw

Publisher – Vortex3 LTD (UK)

Genre – Fantasy/Mystery/Thriller [Adult Fiction]

Chapters – 3 Parts; 33 Chapters (plus a prologue and an epilogue)

Pages – 457

Cover – 10/10! (An excellent cover! LOVE IT!) [Illustration by Oliver Tsujino; Cover design by Stone Ridge Books]

Release Date – 21 March, 2023

Order at Amazon

Check outAuthor’s Website

Since its release back in March 2023, I have been hearing great things about ‘Renia’, and also kept seeing the amazing, eye-catching cover time and again. So eventually, when I got to know that there was going to be a “buddy-read” taking place starting mid-March 2024 over at the SFF Insiders discord (previously known as ‘Page Turners’), I wasn’t about to miss out! And this being my first-ever buddy-read, I was super excited for it too! Hence, I would sincerely like to thank Karl for providing me with a digital copy, and for giving me this wonderful opportunity to review his dark fantasy debut novel – ‘Renia’.

You either happen to life, or life happens to you.

The book takes its name from a certain Miss Renia, a scribe working at the Halls of Venn which hold the largest repository of knowledge – both public, and forbidden – in the northern continent of Luna Ruinam. Renia’s sheer thirst for knowledge and her equally relentless approach in acquiring it has made her standout among the masses. But her life is about to take a massive turn when an ancient and equally dangerous book with a dark past lands on her table. Renia is up for the challenge, and she will do anything and everything possible to make sure her task is completed. With her mentor Sundance keeping a close and watchful eye on proceedings, and the devilishly handsome Dail Svelt keeping her company in more ways than one, Renia’s job is not quite as simple as it might look. And just when things seem to be going in the right direction for once in the young scribe’s life…

… the book mysteriously disappears. Hall Master Petor knows all too well that the consequences of this particular “incident” are about to be very dire if the book is not recovered soon. The Halls are thrown into chaos, and nothing that meets the eyes is straightforward anymore. Who would dare take a book of such history and magnitude… and for what purpose? The North and the South have always been at crossroads. Are there agents of the South at play here? Spies, assassins… or something far more deadly?

The Staines are an influential and powerful family from Verda – the vibrant, energetic heart of Luna Ruinam. One of its members is at the Halls of Venn, trying… rather, hoping to change the world. His bleak and shockingly dark past is what drives him on… Will he succeed in the wake of his inner demons?

Jeff, one of the chiefs of security at the Halls of Venn, finds himself right in the mix of this mystery which is deepening with every passing moment, and with seemingly no end in sight. It is slowly turning into something much deeper, and soon, a series of events will be triggered that will change everyone involved… forever.

And if everything wasn’t already a mess, to make matters much worse and even more complicated, a Reaper is making its way to the Halls… and the timing of it couldn’t have been any more perfect…

‘… You will not fight a Reaper and win.’

‘You’ve seen one fight?’

Ferron looked out over the hall, rubbing the scar that ran from his forehead to his cheekbone. ‘Two of them. Once,’ he said. ‘Two of them slaughtered their way through three squads of men. Well trained, mountain-hardened soldiers.’

‘I haven’t heard that story.’

‘You never will.’

Conversation between Jeff and Ferron, the two chiefs of security at the Halls of Venn

Mysteries are eternal.

The plot goes back and forth between the present situation at the Halls of Venn, and the past events of a couple of characters, more so that of Renia herself. Born in the ‘Moonwastes’, a vast stretch of dusty/barren land, Renia’s childhood was marked by a lovely mother, a caring father, and with their two friendly tenants – Molan and Carol. But fate decided to intervene one day… and on that day… everything changed… for the worse. The events that transpired would shape Renia for what’s to come, and seal her destiny once and for all…

The continent of Luna Ruinam is marked by what is referred to as the ‘Moonfall’, with the fallen moon covering the land with its gentle, purple light. Magic also has its place (and its limits) in these lands in the form of ‘Lightstones’, the most tightly controlled commodity in the world. But to allow its unregulated use would be to invite chaos, anarchy, and war. For this very reason, the Gatherer’s Guild is in place to search and collect these stones under the strict eyes and rules of a man who has total control over the wastes – The Baron. And he is someone not to be messed with…

The people of Luna Ruinam have been at peace since the ‘Great War’ with the motherland, brought to its conclusion by the continent’s lord and savior… the ‘Great Protector’. But peace always has its price… and the question still remains… for how long can it ultimately last?

The things which impressed me massively!

  • The characters are really well-written. Not only are they memorable in their own way, but I also loved the fact they tend to invoke a range of emotions from within you. Each character had their own “voice”, and I really liked the diversity within them. Of course some of them have major character flaws too, and their growth/development was nice to see. And although the book is titled ‘Renia’, it isn’t only about her. Others have nearly equal amount of spotlight on them as well. Really liked this particular aspect. The multiple POV element worked very well for me.
  • The plot was excellently written; fast-paced, with a pretty good mystery element. Loved it!
  • The setting was really intriguing, and to add to that, the lore/world building was top notch. I really, really loved and equally enjoyed it all. Can’t wait to dive deeper into this fascinating world!
  • There are some pretty strong themes being displayed – compassion, pain, grief, anger, love, friendship, etc. Along with some deeper aspects of both the characters and the storyline, the themes provide a great narrative altogether.

What didn’t quite work for me?

If I’m being totally honest… not a thing! Everything was really well done in my opinion, and I don’t have anything to… wait a second…

The only “negative” aspect that I can think of is that maybe there could have been a map of some sorts? That would have been perfect! But hey, I’m not complaining… just saying!

Some standout quotes/dialogues/text

A mystery is a box filled with possibilities, a space where anything could be true or false. It is, by its very definition, magical, for what is magic but the unexplained, or misunderstood.

Secrets, however… Even the word evokes feelings of shame. Secrets are the currency of the dishonest, the schemer. They are singular, a shrouded truth that has been hidden to serve an agenda. Secrets are fleeting. The thrill of uncovering a secret is intense, but forgotten too soon, like the first bite of something sweet.

‘Passion is small comfort to a corpse.’

‘But the lack of passion makes a corpse of any man, does it not? Passion is one half of what drives people to greatness. Passion and discipline— the twin faces of progress. Passion without discipline leads to chaos, discipline without passion leads to stagnation. Occasionally one overpowers the other. All that really matters is that the balance is restored.’

A conversation between Molan and Norok (Renia’s father)

‘I am the master of my fate,’ he began. ‘I steel my soul against the darkness and stride boldly into the light. In this moment, and the next, I am unwavering. My purpose is definite. My focus is true.’

Grand Master Venn-Dor

We’re all the same. There is no good cause, there is no bad cause; there is only the game, and those who choose to play it. The only good in this world is that which we carve out for ourselves.

‘… A man is measured in how long he continues to fight, when his body is worn and aged, and broken, when the weight of his choices is crippling, when he feels like all is lost, and wonders if he can go any further—

‘It’s what he does then that matters the most.’

Some powerful words by Jeff

Other info.

  • The writing, for most parts, is in third person + past tense (like – “he said”). But at times, it changes to a third person + present tense (like – “she says”).
  • The term “Moon” is used multiple times throughout for words/terms being used on a daily basis, like – “by the moon”; for moon’s sake”; “Moonspit!”; “Moonsh*t”, etc. It definitely adds to the lore/world in a nice way.
  • Note: – Mature themes present throughout (blood/gore; sexual assault; violence; death; foul language).

Final thoughts

An EXCELLENT read by all means! Well and truly enjoyed it throughout. The characters are really well-written, the plot was both exciting and intriguing, and the lore/world building was superbly done. The writing in general was great, and the whole mystery element was nice too. There are some pretty strong themes involved which add to the whole narrative. All in all – really loved it, and would HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you grab your copy now!