Moon & Sun: The Ruby Key
by Holly Lisle
I picked up this book because of the intriguing cover. I love the sense of movement it implies with the crouching elf and the cat perched parrot-like on the heroine's shoulder. This richly detailed fantasy takes place in a world where elves and humans hold an uneasy truce. Much of the symbolism was a bit heavy-handed, Sun/Moon, Day/Night, Humans/Elves, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Genna and her brother Dan are driven to desperate measures when their traditional village herbal treatments won't help their mother's illness. They sneak out at night (a dangerous time for humans) to steal some taandu tree sap, hoping to cure her. This is technically a breach of their truce with the nightlings, but justified when it's revealed that their evil Uncle Banris has made a magical bargain with the equally corrupt Elf King, Letrin. Letrin has agreed to grant Banris immortality... if he manages to kill all the children in his care. At this point, the stakes are raised so very high, Genna and Will literally have no choice. Of course, they must continue their fight, even if they'd rather give up, because to stop would mean simply letting Banris murder them and their whole family. I was disinclined to feel sympathetic for the way the siblings desperately feel they must protect their young siblings who are vaguely drawn characters at best. Still, their quest to travel the night roads with their guide Yarri and a talking cat provided lots of adventure as the siblings fend off various magical traps. Lisle's magic system didn't always operate with clockwork precision but the culture and rich history of the Nightlings showed solid worldbuilding. With the reveal of the Sun Wizards this feels like a universe where the humans access to magic is on the upswing after a long absence, and that's always fun to read about.
There is a sequel, The Silver Door, released earlier this year, for the planned trilogy.
I borrowed this book from my local library.