Originally published on The Nerd Daily.
Sisters of the Moon [Vesuvian Books, September 22, 2020] is the kind of supernatural gothic horror that women readers in the genre have been waiting for.
Sold to pay other’s taxes, three young women—Durra, a dark-skinned Moor; Emily, a slave, and Leida, a farmer’s daughter—are delivered to a mysterious convent on isolated Die Wächter Island. Helmed by Mother Amelia, the convent follows the Order of Saint Gertrude, the matron saint of cats and protector of women.
On their first night on the island, Durra and her companions are told the convent will become their haven, so long as they obey the rules. This is a welcome reprieve from the horrors they have experienced at the hands of men, however the girls are unconvinced they have truly found sanctuary. They are instructed not to leave the convent after dark, and to ignore the baleful howls of the animals calling from outside. The feeling of dread grows when the young women discover it’s not just their cell that is locked by an iron bar at bedtime—such measures have also been taken to barricade the nun’s pious sleeping quarters. When Durra dreams of being chased in the forest by wild dogs who morph into pretty women wearing gray habits, she knows the danger looming outside in the night is very real but is left with a series of clues that do not fit together.
“I have no fear of monsters—I have known many in my life.”
The nuns of St. Gertrude are all young, attractive, and vegetarian, a stark contrast to their convent, which is adorned with art depicting horrific scenes featuring large, snarling dogs embroiled in battle. Durra learns the stories depicted on the convent’s walls do not appear in the Bible, nor does she know the names of any of the saints she finds biographised in the convent’s library. The mystery of the convent darkens further when the girls are received in a chapel for prayer to find the figure of Christ beset with an altar bearing the skull of a wolf. When Durra, who can read, is granted access to the convent’s library, she learns the order of Saint Gertrude was disbanded, its sisters shamed, and the nuns consigned to the eerie “Keeper’s Island” and charged with the mandate to “keep watch over its dark secret.” The nuns, Durra learns, are not what they appear: They are powerful than she ever could have imagined—and, if she can survive what awaits her on the island, she is to become one of the Sisters of the Moon.
While a horror story on its surface, Sisters of the Moon is more than a simple tale of three young women sold to satisfy the debts of others who uncover a dark secret. It’s more than just a fresh take on the werewolf mythos or another banal story about the age-old battle between good and evil. Stunning in its imagery and richly detailed, Weis’s Sisters of the Moon blends history and religion into a tale of sisterhood and empowerment as delightfully slow-burning as it is sinister, smart, and not at all shy about probing the status quo of the treatment of women who challenge patriarchal systems—and who fight to defend what is right.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.