A young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm, setting her on a dangerous path where those she loves are not the only ones at risk…
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 her magic flares and her existence is discovered, Xingyin 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 train in the Crown Prince’s service, learning to master archery and magic, despite the passion which 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.
But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream —striking a dangerous bargain, where she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
Thank you to NetGalley and HarperVoyager for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
A coming of age story set in the mythical Celestial Kingdom, full of beauty and danger, and an old legend brought to life beautifully. I’ve heard the basic story of the Moon Goddess but don’t know too much about it and its context, but I love the way it was framed in this book, especially by making the narrator someone outside the original myth. Xingyin is a loveable main character, who is forced to make hard decisions throughout the story but always stays true to herself. Forced to leave the Moon, her mother’s domain, she finds herself in the heart of the Celestial Kingdom and realises that her mother is constantly in danger of the Queen’s anger and the King’s judgement for the way she ascended to immortality, so Xingyin has to hide her identity. Of course, though, she befriends the Prince, and though she is conflicted about lying to him, she has to protect her mother, and wants to find a way to free her from her confinement to the Moon.
‘Some scars are carved into our bones—a part of who we are, shaping what we become.’
The most interesting thing about this book, for me, was the setting. The Celestial Kingdom held a lot of sway over my imagination, and I was taken by surprise at how vast it is, initially. At first I was drawn in by the magical clouds, the ancient forests, the markets that only appear every thousand years, and the magic that infuses everything. Then, I got pulled in by the politics of it all. The Celestial King, being immortal, has been on the throne through many events and though the stories may paint him as perfect he has made many enemies, and the most interesting thing was the fact that the Demon Realm is simply an area of the Kingdom that dared to rebel. Tan does some interesting things with how myth and reality don’t always coincide, something that Xingyin has to come to terms with.
‘I was learning that kings were not always as just as in the stories, and the mercy of gods was sometimes flawed.’
As I said, Xingyin is a good main character, with great strength both in spirit and body. I like that she is a warrior as well as intelligent and feminine, and that she sometimes has to make hard decisions. She was the perfect lens for the reader because though she is a Celestial, she comes from mortal roots, so it was easy to identify with her and learn about the world at the same time as her. I also liked the way the stories told within the book became elements of the plot later on, giving hints of the road ahead to the discerning reader while also providing atmosphere in the moment.
I did at times find fault with the plot and pacing, and rolled my eyes severely at the presence of a love triangle that felt a little forced, but the beauty of the writing and the setting made me forgive these minor transgressions. Also, I love anything to do with the moon so I can’t fault it too much… So, if you are looking for an etherial, lyrical twist on a legend that has not often found a Western audience, I highly recommend Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan.
Published: 20th January 2022
Series: The Celestial Kingdom Duology, book one
Narration style: first person, past tense
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: bullying, blood, confinement, grief