Renia (Luna Ruinam #1), by Karl Forshaw - A review by Esmay Rosalyne

The Book

Series: Luna Ruinam
Pages: 512
Age Group: Adult
Published on 3/21/2023
Publisher: Self-Published
Dark Fantasy
Available on:


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.    

My Review (4.5 out of 5 )

Renia is without a doubt one of the more exciting, unique, and fresh takes on a fantasy story I have ever read. It’s an alluring genre-blendy gem of a book that defies expectations, mixing fantasy with mystery and adding in some enticing dystopia, horror, and steampunk(ish) elements. And even though that might sound like a lot, it somehow all works SO WELL. I simply fell head over heels in love with this story the moment I started reading. You don’t want to miss out on this one, go pre-order it now and get ready to join me on this hype train!

This book is divided up into three parts, with the story getting more and more complex and dark as you make your way through. In Part 1, we mainly follow the titular character Renia, a scribe with a tragic past. I quickly connected to Renia and found her story to be incredibly compelling, she is such a flawed character and yet you can’t help but root for her. We are not just told about the past that haunts her, but we get to experience it first-hand through flashbacks that are interspersed throughout the present timeline.
It doesn’t take long for you to realise that life in this world is brutal and that actions have serious consequences, which immediately raised the stakes and solidified my emotional investment.    

Over the course of the story, we are introduced to more and more intriguing POV characters as they become entangled in the confounding mystery surrounding the stolen book that Renia was tasked with transcribing. Cue the chaos, deadly assassins, dangerous schemes, magical mayhem, brutal betrayals, and devastating sacrifices.
The scope of the world and story expands, but it never becomes overwhelming because the story feels so grounded through its intimate and character-focused storytelling. Each of these characters get their moment to shine and they all have an important role to play in the story. The character dynamics are super strong and compelling, showing us all types of messy, complex, endearing, heartbreaking and just beautifully human relationships. 

Also, I loved how this narrative was driven forward by the characters’ personal inner conflicts, which all tied seamlessly into the overarching mystery plot that’s at the core of this story. This book features some of the most gripping and surprising character arcs that I have come across recently. The author isn’t afraid to take risks and take the story in dark directions, which I really appreciated. Themes of family, motherhood, loss, and mental health are explored in a delicate and authentic way, which made this story even more emotionally engaging than it already was.

Now, I have said many times that I am generally a very character-driven reader. And even though I adored the characters in this story, I think the highlight of the book might have actually been the incredibly captivating and immersive world-building. The world of Luna Ruinam is alluring, bewildering, mystifying, exciting, and slightly weird, in the best way possible. In a time long past, a cataclysmic event known as the Moonfall created a mysterious and irradiated crater called the Moonwastes, which is where Renia grew up. Scattered throughout these barren and desolate lands are the highly coveted lightstones, which have curious abilities that may or may not do more harm than good. I am usually not a visual reader, but this mesmerizing world just came to life in my mind through all the vivid, evocative, and sometimes haunting descriptions and world-building elements. Also, expect some horrifying and monstrous creatures here! Some of these gory scenes are burned into my memory, but I truly can't even complain because I just loved how immersive this reading experience was!

For the most part, this feels like a familiar and expected fantasy setting, but then there are also some fascinating dystopia and steampunk elements introduced. Treasures of lost civilizations and advanced technology pop up left and right (hello coffee machines and airships!), which leaves you wondering about the history and true nature of this world and universe.
So not only do we have a riveting mystery plot driving the narrative forward, but the world-building itself is also shrouded in mysteries, which I LOVED. Even though we don’t get to see much of this world outside of the contained setting of the Halls of Venn in this first book, I have a feeling that the world is going to open up in the next installments based on how this book left off. I am so ready to discover and explore this mysterious and enthralling world in all its glory in the rest of the series!!

This book was just utterly captivating from start to finish and I honestly can’t wait to read whatever else this author puts out next. With a debut that's this bold and strong, I have no doubts that Forshaw is going to be an author to watch!
If you like the sound of a dark and genre-blending fantasy story with character-focused storytelling, a contained institution setting, surprising character arcs, riveting mysteries, mystifying world-building, and immersive prose, then Renia is the perfect fit for you. I loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough!

Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This book is scheduled for release on March 21st, so you better run to get your pre-orders in!

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About the reviewer


Hi! I’m Esmay, a 20-year-old bookworm from the Netherlands. My main hobbies are reading books, talking about books, reviewing books, and watching videos of people talking about books. Fantasy is my favourite genre, but I will honestly read anything if the premise intrigues me. Also, over the past year, I’ve become a huge (SFF) indie/self-pub enthusiast and it’s been a wonderful experience to discover all the hidden gems. I’m forever exploring stranger worlds.

You can follow her on Goodreads / Twitter.   

The Author/s

Karl Forshaw

Karl Forshaw

Karl Forshaw was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. After a successful career as a contract software developer and all the travel that came with it, he settled down on the edge of the countryside with his wife, children, and dog, where he now resides. He writes from his basement to a soundtrack of obscure music, drinking too much coffee and watching his fish grow.