The Ruby Key (Moon & Sun)
by Holly Lisle
Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Review by Colleen Cahill
Orchard Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780545000123
Date: 01 May 2008 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Stories of children who meet other-worldly beings are plentiful, from Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen to Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series. Holly Lisle brings her own spin on this in her latest work, The Rudy Key, where a brother and sister join a young renegade nightling to fight a pair of tyrants that are threatening the existence of both their peoples.
The family of Genna and Danrith have had much misfortune in the last two years. First their father was taken ill and wandered off into the woods; most believe he is dead. Now their mother has developed the same illness and the children's Uncle Banris (who is actually their father's friend) is trying to convince the woman to marry him so her seven children will not be left parentless. But Dan and Genna have another plan; they will gather some of the dark taandu, a tree sap that might cure their mother. This is very dangerous, as they can only gather the sap at night and the dark is ruled by the nightlings, beings of great power. If the pair are caught, it could mean war between the nightlings and the humans.
It is while on this mission that the pair run into a nightling who reveals Banris has made a deal with the her kai-lord, a deal that would give Banris great power and immortality. A part of the cost would be the death of his children, but Banris is doesn't have any... unless he marries Genna and Dan's mother; then he would have seven children to sacrifice. In an attempt to save their family, the pair seek out the kai-lord Letrin and make their own bargain with this nightling king. After careful prompting from her nightling friend, Genna asks for the lives of her parents and those in her village, protection from Banris, and for the ruby key.
Letrin now knows one of his people is aiding Genna and Dan, but he still gives them a deal: if they can find and bring a child named Doyati to Letrin, he will grant their desires. With the lives of all their family and friends on the line, Genna and Dan head out to travel the moonroads, the only path that can lead them to the one they seek.
On the surface, The Ruby Key seems a straight forward fantasy adventure, and it is easy to see the echoes of fairy tales in this story. Lisle adds to this excellent base, presenting the fully fleshed characters and even giving the villains some redeeming traits, such as Letrin's mourning for his lost family. I particularly enjoyed the talking cat sent to help the children on the moonroads, who adds just the right touch of sarcasm to this work, giving it a bit of reality amidst all the fantasy.
This is a fun read for both children and adults, with lots of magic, adventure and wonder. The first book in the Moon and Sun series, The Ruby Key is a great start to what promises to be a good series of books.