Published by HarperCollins on January 11, 2022
Source: the library
The acclaimed national and international bestseller
“Epic, romantic, and enthralling from start to finish.”—Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series
“An all-consuming work of literary fantasy that is breathtaking both for its beauty and its suspense."—BookPage, starred review
A captivating and romantic debut epic fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared 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, powerless, 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 emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, 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.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic, of loss and sacrifice—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
Xingyin lives an enviable – if somewhat dull – life as the daughter of the immortal moon goddess. Set apart from other immortals for reasons Xingyin’s mother refuses to discuss, Xingyin knows almost nothing of her history. When Xingyin discovers that her mother is actually an exile imprisoned on the moon, she’ll stop at nothing to set her free.
The threads of fate (a central theme) bring Xingyin into the Celestial Palace, the home of the same immortal Empress who originally imprisoned her mother. To free her, Xingyin must establish herself and curry favour with the immortals – no easy feat for someone so guileless.
Xingyin’s naivety is matched only by her determination to save her family, a combination that I found quite unexpected and charming. She leaps at every opportunity, moving quickly from servant to soldier, and soon amasses a cadre of allies from every corner of the realm. There are many interesting women in this story, and a few who become friends to Xingyin, but regrettably, she doesn’t spend much time with them. I’m especially hoping to see her friendship with a fellow soldier play a more prominent role in the sequel.
“Xingyin’s naivety is matched only by her determination to save her family, a combination that I found quite unexpected and charming.”
Readers who are new to wuxia will find that Tan’s deftly woven world makes the genre accessible for newcomers. As a fan of wuxia stories, I personally found Daughter of the Moon Goddess a tad predictable since it sticks so close to genre conventions. Predictability aside, the other stumbling block for this story is in its pacing. Things start out quite slowly but eventually the plot gains momentum and reaches an almost frenzied pace. I thought the quieter moments in the story shone brightest, especially those when Xingyin makes herself vulnerable and connects with her friends.
With so much of her life spent in isolation, it’s no surprise that Xingjian’s friends – and lovers – play such an important role in her growth. The inexperienced Xingyin finds herself at the heart of a complex love triangle, one that I thought was quite well done. Both men vying for her affection have their appeal, and I could see why she was attracted to them as well. I am rooting for someone in particular, but it’s not looking great for him (of course). I’m holding out hope for a redemption arc in the sequel.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a charming debut and I’m excited to see what Sue Lynn Tan has in store next. Recommended!