BINGO – SNAKE
Secrets and hidden identities abound in this debut novel from Sue Lynn Tan. Xingyin is the titular daughter of the moon goddess, Chang’e, but she shouldn’t be alive. Her mother has hidden her existence from the Emperor and Empress of the Immortal Realm in order to keep her safe from danger and harm. For many years, Chang’e and Xingyin lived peacefully with their attendant on the moon in exile. But when Xingyin accidentally alerts the rulers of the Immortal Realm to her existence she must flee. The escape doesn’t go according to plan and through a series of fortunate and unfortunate events, Xingyin ends up as the companion to the crown prince of the Immortal Realm, Liwei, the son of the very people who imprisoned her mother. Being this close to the rulers of the Immortal Realm, what can Xingyin do without revealing herself? Who can she trust? How can she free her mother from her imprisonment on the moon?
Xingyin ends up serving in the military as an archer. What I loved about this book was author Sue Lynn Tan’s willingness to explore war, violence, and bloodshed even in a fantasy setting. So often, the real effects of war in fantasy settings are skated over in favor of descriptions of massive battles filled with wondrous acts of magic and bravery. But what comes next? How are the soldiers affected? Tan dives into this exploration with Xingyin. Even knowing that many of the soldiers will be able to magically heal themselves and their comrades, Xingyin is deeply affected by the pain and destruction she causes. She battles herself over the necessity of such violence and her willingness to inflect it.
But not everything in The Daughter of the Moon Goddess is doom and gloom and war and violence. There is a love story, too. Through their time as learning companions, Xingyin and Liwei fall in love. How could you not when you’re both attractive and spending all day every day together? Xingyin is wary to reveal her secret identiy to Liwei because of his parents, and Liwei has secrets of his own that he doesn’t reveal right away. After Xingyin joins the military, Captain Wenzhi takes a special interest in Xingyin skills as an archer. Through their many excursions and battles, affection blooms. Liwei and Wenzhi do what they can to sway Xingyin, but true closeness is difficult when every one is hiding things.