Moon Blood and Salt Flowers, by L.L. Stephens
In a land the Spanish have wrested from the Incas, llama-herder Amaya was born of moon blood and is viewed as uncanny—but she has a gift which her people find useful: she can see salt flowers, the malevolent flora from the spirit world that grow on moonless nights to devour the souls of unwary humans.
When she comes upon Spanish soldiers slain in their sleep by salt flowers, Amaya rescues the lone survivor and brings him back to her village. Fernando turns her world upside down, and not just because he is handsome and wants to learn her language. He has been sent by the Viceroy to investigate mysterious deaths in the mines of Potosi, the vast silver deposits of which fuel the mighty Spanish empire.
Though fascinated by Fernando, Amaya has reason to be wary. The Spanish are not benevolent rulers—and their religion doesn’t recognize the spirit world with which Amaya communicates.
The Spanish don’t see the danger. Or the salt flowers.
My Review (4 out of 5 )
Moon Blood and Salt Flowers is a novelette that mixes historical fantasy and romance, written by L.L. Stephens; a story about the relationship between Amaya, a llama harder, native from the Altiplano, and Fernando, one of the Spanish conquerors.
Amaya has always been considered uncanny, bornt from the moon blood, but with a gift that is useful for her people: she's able to see salt flowers, a flora that grows in the spirit world to devour the soul of the travelers. When she sees a group of Spanish soldiers slayed by the salt flowers, she's able to rescue a lone survivor, Fernando, bringing him back to the village.
While Fernando is a more forgiving person, he informs the authorities of what happened, and Amaya is summoned by the Church to explain her ability. And in the meanwhile, she starts to know better Fernando, a Spanish that wants to learn her language, and that it's better to accept some things about Amaya, starting a romantic relationship that feels really natural between both parts.
Amaya gets tasked with helping to solve the mysterious deaths in the Potosi mine, as Spain is reliant on the silver deposits; and negating could bring more problems with a Church that doesn't recognizes the spirit world.
The setting is one I would love to see more in fantasy, taking more advantage of the long time Spain colonized South America; and personally, I certainly loved the depiction Stephens did of the Altiplano. You can also appreciate how she's really careful of the original cultures of the zone, trying to represent them as close to reality as possible.
For romance lovers, I would say that this novelette is not especially spicy, but it also contains some hot scenes, so beware if you are not exactly comfortable reading those.
A really solid novelette, perfect to spend an afternoon reading with a coffee. I was a fan of Stephens' work previously, and honestly, as a Spain native myself, I like to see this historical period depicted in literature.
L.L. Stephens has always been passionate about writing and storytelling. They describe themself as a curious Author who loves exploring different themes and motifs. As part of their writing process, they love immersing themselves in their projects—diving headfirst into the research, production, and fine-tuning of the stories they feel are the most worthy of telling.