Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan is a beautiful weaving of lore and retelling. Tan’s debut introduces us to Xingyin and she works to save her mother.
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.
Alone, untrained, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the Crown Prince, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the emperor’s son.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. When treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, however, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.
“My father slew the suns. My mother lights the moon.”
If you had told me this was a debut after I read it, I would not have believed you. The writing is beautiful, the prose engaging. This story was one I was vaguely family with (mostly due to Netflix’s Over The Moon) and to see it in this way was fantastic. Reviewing it is difficult, though, because, from about 30%-60%, the pacing slows to full drag. It then picks up, and you want to rate it five stars.
“Some knowledge beats in our hearts, while others are learned by the body and mind.”
Xingyin is a fantastic main character. She’s interesting and feisty in a way that stays consistent, even with character growth. The way her relationships developed over time, and how she romantically stayed true to her wants despite their inevitable outcome was really nice to see. I’m all for love triangles, but it doesn’t always work, and it wouldn’t have here. However, I found the Crown Prince a little dull at times, and his best moments were always with Xingyin and never without.
Our villain really did surprise me, and I loved the way the dragons were handled here as well. Xingyin truly fought for the freedoms that were deserved. Seeing the folklore weaved in and out of this story was a fantastic experience. Yet the pacing truly takes away from how good of a story this is. I know this is going to be a series, and so world-building was necessary. However, it still tended to feel like filler and made me put the book down more often than not. The ending is what kept this from being three stars because that final speed-up really won me over.
“I was more than this ill-fated love; I would not let it define me.”
The world-building, while slow, was necessary for connection to the characters. The story had me wrapped up enough to continue to the end, and I’m really glad I did that. Xingyin is a fantastic main character, who is interesting and consistently true to herself. If you enjoyed Six Crimson Cranes, you’re likely to enjoy this book as well, with a similar writing style on a brand new story.
“Your heart still beats to mine. You still feel something for me, just as I do for you.”
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.