A child of the Moon Goddess, and an immortal herself, Xingyin grows up on the moon, with just her mother & their family servant/long time companion. For the most part, the three of them are happy, if isolated. Xingyin senses a grief in her mother that she can’t quite explain, and within herself she feels a growing sense to reach out … for something more. She can’t label it, and her mother has warned her against reaching for it, but the pull towards that other grows stronger as she grows up. And when she can no longer ignore it, she finds her whole life changed, forever.
In this reimagining of the myth of Chang’e The Moon Goddess, Sue Lynn Tan takes the reader on a fantastical exploration of family loyalty and learning how to trust in yourself, & others. Xingyin is a multifaceted, kickass heroine who N E V E R gives up, no matter how many punches life manages to aim at her. Faced with challenge after challenge, with betrayals and misfortunes and family secrets, with a court full of royal, magical enemies, she somehow manages to embrace her own power time & time again. She builds relationships and friendships, all the while constantly questioning the validity of those relationships if she’s never fully honest with anyone. “Don’t tell anyone who you are. But never forget either.” Her mother had warned her, and in theory, that sounds easy, but the practice of it is more difficult that she could ever have imagined. She battles this need for connection with her goal to complete her quest -> to rescue her mother from an unjust punishment.
Reading Xingyin’s constant struggle to balance her need for human connection – for friendship & allies & love & understanding, even for mentorship & knowledge – with her inner secrets, her inner journey to free her mother was almost physically painful for me. I’m one of those people who has to change the channel or pause & walk a way for a few minutes when something particularly angsty is happening on-screen (I have never fully watched the Scott’s Tots episode of The Office, if that means anything to you), so I found myself taking a lot of breaks while I was reading this book, but that’s to its credit: If it wasn’t so well written, I wouldn’t have empathized with her so much.
Every word, every action, every step & misstep that she makes, Xingyin must somehow maneuver them all into a path for her mother’s redemption, and – eventually- her own salvation.
I wanted only good things for Xingyin, and – as in most myths – that was unfortunately not happening. She faced trial after trial, setback after setback. But she rose to meet each of them with an inner fortitude that I greatly admired, and that was admired by other characters in the text, as well. Witnessing other people start to see Xingyin’s true character – especially in the midst of all the misleading and brutal attacks against her – was one of the absolute highlights of this story.
The book has multiple sections, and so many plotlines that there’s definitely something here for everyone: Action & adventure? Check. Romance? Cheeeeck. Betrayal & heartbreak? Angry checks. Friendships forged in fire? Check. Legendary magical creatures? Check. Misdirection and sleight of hand? Oops: Double Check. Tan seems to have mastered the ‘mythology’ part of her fantasy mythology duology, as every secret has its own secret, and every character manages to have both a mysterious backstory you learn along the route to yet another quest for Xingyin, and a competing quest of their own. The fact that this is Tan’s debut is … astonishing, really.
The only negative thing I have to talk about with this book is the fact that it is first in a duology and THIS book isn’t even out until January 2022, so who knows when the second book will be released? Now I have to wait forever to find out what happens next, and I am an impatient, at best, reader. Thanks, #NetGalley.
Still: if you like less frequented mythology, fantasies that hit the border of YA fantasy but don’t exactly crossover (IMO), a heroine that holds her own and then some, and a really rich world building experience, add Daughter of the Moon Goddess to your pre-order list now.
Also, for CBR13Bingo purposes, this fits quite nicely on my Mythic square.