Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Xingyin grows up on the moon, where her mother is imprisoned by the Celestial Emperor. Before Xingyin was born, her mother drank the immortal elixir intended for her husband, who’d received the elixir for an act of heroism. Other than Xingyin’s mother and one lady who lives with them, nobody knows about Xingyin’s existence, but when Xingyin explores her magic, she draws attention from the Celestial Empress and must flee from the moon.

Nothing goes according to plan, but Xingyin becomes the companion of the Emperor’s son, living at the palace and attending classes with Prince Liwei. Xingyin is determined to free her mother from her prison, and strives to earn a favor from the Emperor, a journey that takes her into the army, fighting monsters and villains along the way, and burying her love for the prince, who’s been promised to another.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess | Series: Celestial Kingdom | Harper Voyager | Pub Date: 2022-01-11 | Pages: 512 | ISBN13: 978-0063031302 | Genre: Fantasy | Language: English | Source: NetGalley | Starred Review

Daughter of the Moon Goddess

A young immortal must find the strength in herself to complete her quest and restore her family’s name.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a story that fires on all cylinders. The author takes her time with lush descriptions, and lays a solid foundation for the events that will unfold. Some scenes seemed like they were intended to reveal character attributes and lay a foundation for growth, but ended up carrying more significance later on, which is a testament to the depth of the storytelling here. 

Xingyin is principled, and for that, she’s often called a liar. In some ways, Xingyin is the mirror that shows everyone their faults, because she doesn’t easily bend to political or social pressure, at one point musing, “I would rather be alone than have friends as these.” She embodies an inherent loneliness, perhaps stemming from her childhood on the moon, perhaps fueled by her need to keep her mother’s secret and conceal her identity. Her growth is a compelling part of the story. She must learn to hone her strengths and use her magic as she strives to fulfill her quest.

It’s hard to say much without feeling like it gives some of the story away, but I have to applaud the relationship between Xingyin and Prince Liwei. Although an attraction develops between them, it’s more than lust, evidenced by the length and strength of their commitment to each other. They forge a deep bond that withstands misunderstandings, deception, and other commitments. Xingyin also forms a friendship with a girl working in the palace kitchen and another soldier, and it’s refreshing to see relationships that are purely positive. In the end, although she didn’t strive to be popular or be a leader, she influences others by her actions and they’re inspired to support her.

This is a thoroughly engrossing story that’s beautifully written and takes the reader inside the Celestial Kingdom, where they learn about the immortals and conflicts between the immortal nations. Epic fantasy fans won’t want to miss this one. It’s a gem with so much more to it than what I’ve mentioned here, and (other than the Celestial Emperor and Empress, who are thoroughly unlikeable) the characters are nuanced. Even the bad guys aren’t always all bad. While it won’t get in the way of enjoying this extraordinary tale, Daughter of the Moon Goddess offers a commentary on leadership, and how self-absorbed, short-sighted leaders make decisions that put everyone in jeopardy. To say this is an impressive debut is an understatement. 5/5 stars

This review first appeared at Leviathan Libraries

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