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Heart Of Dust

Book One of Death's Embrace

by H. L. Moore

Heart of Dust - H.L. Moore - Death's Embrace
Part of the Death's Embrace series:
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
Pages: 250

Doran had a problem, and it wasn't that he'd been stabbed.

Iole City is in turmoil. Doran Ó Seanáin, leader of the Black Lung Gang, is determined to bring the Archon, Arajon’s tyrannical ruler, down for his brutal treatment of the miners. But Doran has more to deal with than getting stabbed and a city-wide lockdown that’s seeing his gang of ex-miners being slowly starved out of their base. His daughter Grace has turned against him, and the weight of his wife’s death haunts them both.

Things start to look up when he’s inexplicably drawn to Nathaniel Morgenstern, the apotheker with a mysterious past he owes his life to, but Doran is in way over his head. The fate of the mines hangs in the balance; the clock is ticking and the Archon is closing in.

Doran’s plan to break the cycle may very well be his last.

This book is on:
  • 2 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 3 Age: Under 18
Tropes: Cultural Differences, Everyone is Queer, Interracial Relationship, Meet Cute, Slow Burning Love
Word Count: 59000
Setting: Fantasy World
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Reviews:Sue on Joyfully Jay wrote:

Rating: 4.5 stars

Doran O’Seanain lives amongst the soot and choking foulness of the Iole City coal mines and he’s losing the battle against the push for a better life. As Foreman, he’s led a two-year strike against the city’s oppressive and violent leader, Archon Bryson, and to some extent the strike has been successful. But Doran’s people, the coal miners and their families, are struggling and he isn’t sure how much more any of them can endure. The mines have taken everything from Doran and the only thing he has left is the desperate hope he might be able to make things better for others.

After an attempted rebellion goes wrong, Doran finds himself wounded and on the doorstep of Nathaniel Morgenstern’s apothecary. Nathaniel is kind and offers a level of peace that Doran has not known since his wife’s murder. But the man has secrets and in Doran’s life, secrets can get you killed. In the end, there may be a truth between them that is too terrible to endure. And with the Archon closing on in Doran and his people from all sides, death may come more swiftly than anyone expects.

So I discovered Heart of Dust while looking for books to fit our Self-Published Book Week here at Joyfully Jay. The plot sounded more than intriguing and I decided to try it and I’m glad I did. Heart of Dust is well written and hooked me from the first page. The author has done an excellent job of conveying the poverty and danger in which the coal mining families of Iole City are forced to live. Death is constant and suffering a way of life. But it’s the only job for the poor and the conditions are beyond horrific. Doran’s strike is well intended, but since the murder of his wife, Doran has struggled to be the leader his people need. His desperation and despondency are palpable and I found it impossible not to feel for him. Nathaniel is more mysterious and we know his secrets can’t be good ones. But when he and Doran are together, they have a natural chemistry that is both sweet and engaging. This romance is a slow burn to be sure, but if feels more realistic because of that.

The end of Heart of Dust feels a bit predictable and there are somewhat obvious reveals that lack the finesse of the first three-quarters of the book. Still, these climatic moments are written with a taunt edginess that gave them some depth. The secret between Nathaniel and Doran is a bit far-fetched and I feel as though given the nature of it, it would be impossible for these characters to move forward as a couple. But the author does a decent job of leaving things unsettled between them. There’s no automatic resolution and I’ll be interested in seeing how things evolve in the sequel, which is due out in 2019.

On the whole, Heart of Dust was an excellent read. There’s a palpable sense of time and place and the world building is strong without becoming excessive. Nathaniel and Doran are a complicated couple and their connection is built upon an unstable foundation indeed and I got the impression romance will be a hard fought battle for them despite their chemistry. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel to this book and I think anyone who likes their romances a bit more complex will enjoy Heart of Dust.

Publishers Weekly on Publishers Weekly wrote:

Moore’s entertaining futuristic romance tackles messy family dynamics and civil disobedience in a dystopian, semi-subterranean world. Bryson, the tyrannical archon, ignores concerns about the country’s highly lucrative but brutally unsafe coal mines and the miners’ extreme privation, so hotheaded and charismatic former foreman Doran Ó Seanáin and his Black Lung Gang orchestrate a massive strike. After an attempt to incite rebellion, a wounded Doran stumbles into the apothecary of taciturn but generous Nathaniel Morgenstern. Doran ducks the huge bounty on his head to visit his estranged adult daughter Grace, who’s living with the wealthy family her mother abandoned to marry Doran. He discovers she is engaged to the archon, a personal affront to Doran, who crafts a risky ultimatum for miners’ rights. Tensions among the gang leadership mount, and Doran’s increasing feelings for Nathaniel and frustrations with Grace cloud his judgments until the explosive conclusion. Moore’s worldbuilding could be slightly more fluid as she packs in Celtic mythology, a crypto-Jewish minority (to which Nathaniel belongs), and a complicated political situation, but her characters’ entangled relationships and Doran’s angst-free bisexuality keep everything feeling fresh. Shocking revelations and unfinished reforms pave the way for future books in this series that should appeal to fans of slow-burning desire and fights against oppression. (BookLife)

About the Author

H. L. Moore is an Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations (2015) and a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism (2012), both from the University of New South Wales.

She is Jewish and of Middle Eastern (Egyptian) heritage, queer, and is an #OwnVoices writer. She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. Her biggest literary influences are Adrian Tchaikovsky, Brandon Sanderson and C. S. Pacat. She is the author of Heart of Dust and Soul of Ash, books 1 & 2 of the "Death's Embrace" series. She has also had two short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.