This was too good to rate less than 5 stars, even though I have to admit the pacing was rough. Very lush, heady, and romantic—a debut that every fantasy reader should have on their radar.
Xingyin is the daughter of Chang'e, the Moon Goddess. Hidden from the rest of the Celestial Kingdom and their fellow immortals, Xingyin is her mother's secret. An immortal born from a newly immortal moon goddess and the mortal, Houyi—the best archer who ever lived—Xingyin's life was fated for destiny.
To save her from discovery, Chang'e sends her daughter away from the moon to seek safety in the Southern Sea. Xingyin does not make the journey. Instead, she finds herself unmoored and on her own in the Celestial Kingdom. It's time to make her own destiny and, while she's at it, save her mother from her imprisonment on the moon. All while hiding the fact that she's the daughter of the moon goddess—the one mortal-turned-immortal who disobeyed the rules of the all-powerful Celestial Emperor.
What will happen to Xingyin? Curl up with her as her story unfolds and she tells you all about it...
Daughter of the Moon Goddess is one of those reads that reminds you just how good descriptive lyrical fantasies can be. That's a bold statement, I know, but I stand by it.
Whether you prefer your fantasy epic, urban, romantic, grimdark, gothic, young adult, or other—fantasy is, at its core, an exploration of realms and concepts that exist outside of our mundane reality.
Some of our earliest fantasies sprung from early storytelling and oral histories. Cultural touchstones of mythology, faith, origins of peoples, fairytales. Stories that persist and adapt with our cultures.
I'm waxing poetic about storytelling because Daughter of the Moon Goddess feels like a continuation of that conversation. It's rooted in Chinese mythology and yet linking new threads and telling its own story. It's lush. It's descriptive. It's extremely heady in its romanticism. It highlights life lessons and morals. It's its own modern (ancient?) fable. It's one of those tales that unfolds in its own time and in its own way. It is the definition of "unhurried."
That, I think, was this story's only weakness—its pacing. As someone who is used to our modern fantasies, I found Daughter of the Moon Goddess frustrating for the first several chapters in its use of extremely slow pacing mixed with time jump intervals. This might be common in Chinese stories, I'll admit ignorance in this field, but it was present to me as a Western reader so I'll caution my other Western readers to persevere. If you can get into the groove with this story and its unique sense of plodding pace, it is truly spectacular.
A ship traveling from America to England. A deadly game of find-that-magical-item. A fantastic sapphic romance. Oh and also? More of a truly engaging magical world. I love this series!
Maud Blyth is on a mission. She's helping her brother, Robin, with his quest to save the magical community of Great Britain from some truly deadly stakes that we discovered in A Marvellous Light, the first book in the series. She's on her way back to Britain via steamship.
It's not Maud's fault that her charge, an elderly woman holding a secret magical artifact, dies on the first day of their voyage. And it's not Maud's fault that said elderly lady never actually told her what item in her possession was the all-important magical artifact.
Oof. Things aren't going to be so easy, after all.
Good thing Maud Blyth is the best person to have in your corner when you're trapped and in need of assistance.
Enter Violet Debenham from stage right, the beautiful and enigmatic heiress-to-be with a reputation she keeps in purposeful tatters and way too much personality and charm for any one room. She's a gravitational pull, and Maud finds herself helpless to resist—and discovering that even she could, she may not want to escape Violet's embrace.
And from stage left, the broody and constantly irritated Lord Hawthorne enters the scene as well with his anger, lack of magical ability, and tortured past. He's a reluctant player in Maud's play of Christie-like whodunit, but he's present and more helpful than nothing so Maud takes him into her stride too.
With magicians, murder, and mayhem... We're in for a bumpy voyage. All aboard!!
I am so pleased to report that A Restless Truth proved to be just as delightful as its first book, A Marvellous Light.
I was initially bummed to find out that this book abandoned the characters from the first book (Robin and Edwin), but quickly found myself getting over it in the absolutely perfect character in Maud. Maud was everything. I loved her. (Don't get me wrong, I found Violet to be a ton of fun too in different ways, but MAUD!)
There's just something about this quaint historical fantasy series that pushes all of my buttons. It's intriguing, yet not pulse-pounding. It's quaint and quiet, yet grips me. It has a dense and interesting magic structure and yet at no point do I feel lost or overburdened by complexity. It's "just right," and continues to be.
My only quibble with this installment was its limited setting... I am not a fan of boat-centered content. Or any other limited-setting story that traps our characters into a very small geographic range. Outside of certain mystery books with extreme action, this type of limited setting leads to me as the reader feeling trapped and pent-up in the mental reading space. It's hard for the plot to feel like it's moving along when our characters can only go from A to B... and back... and repeat. I wish this story had taken place somewhere else and given Maud, Violet, and the crew more room to breathe and explore. But, that in mind, I still greatly enjoyed this read.
Eagerly awaiting book three!!
Many thanks to Tordotcom for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.