ARC Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Author: Sue Lynn Tan
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publish Date: January 11, 2022
Print Length: 512

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Official Synopsis
A captivating debut 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 and sets her on a dangerous path–where choices come with deadly consequences, and she risks losing more than her heart.

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.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic 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.

My Review
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. The publisher indicated that this e-proof was made from digital files of the uncorrected proofs and reminded readers that changes may be made prior to publication. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

First, let’s talk about this book cover. It is absolutely gorgeous! I’d be lying if I said it had no impact on my interest in this book. Sue Lynn Tan tweeted in her cover reveal that Kuri Huang did this edition’s stunning work of art. They say to never judge a book by its cover, but guilty as charged in this case.

I really enjoyed reading this Chinese mythology-inspired journey about Xingyin, daughter of the moon goddess, Chang’e. This is a very character-driven book, though there is enough action that one could argue it’s also quite plot-driven. Tan’s writing allows the reader an exceptional view into Xingyin’s thoughts and goals. There is no ambiguity regarding what matters most to Xingyin: freeing her mother from the Celestial Emperor’s exile. From the moment she finds herself in royal company she plays the long game. However, Xingyin is not duplicitous by nature. She struggles inwardly with the secret she harbors about her identity. As she works towards her end goal, she reminds herself to deeply bury the yearning to share who she is with those she loves. The timing must be right.

Tan does a wonderful job describing Xingyin’s world. As someone who’s not very familiar with Chinese mythology, architecture, or dress, I found this very helpful. Conversely, I also felt, at times, some scenes and inner monologues were overly described. However, that nitpicky critique is more personal preference-based and only applies to a few passages. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the amount of description provided by Tan.

The miscommunication (or lack thereof) trope frustrated me, though. (I’m learning that this trope isn’t my favorite.) Xingyin suddenly finds herself on the run because her mother never fully explains why she’s forbidden to do something. Xingyin is almost a young adult, yet her mother holds back information. Personally, I’d find it more compelling if a character has a moment of weakness and “disobeys,” despite knowing what it is they’re doing.

However, I did enjoy the love triangle. The love interests develop realistically, that is, over time and through mutual trust and joint experiences. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate that; clearly instalove is not my jam. There is jealousy, but court decorum helps to tamp down on displays of dominance. Xingyin’s inner monologue serves to show the nuance of her feelings between the two male love interests.

There are a lot of quests in the middle portion of this story. These showcase Xingyin’s personal growth and her devotion to her mother. There are a couple of scenes where Xingyin’s decisions surprised me, though. Given her extensive training, and the number of times the story mentions she learns quickly, I expected her to react differently during a couple of fight scenes. Then again, who am I to judge or know how someone might react during a battle? No one is perfect, immortal or not.

In short, feel free to judge this book by its cover. It definitely lives up to book cover-induced expectations. This book is perfect for those who love mythology retellings, strong female protagonists, quests, forbidden love, and betrayal.

Rating: 4/5
Content warnings: battle scenes, blood, gore, bullying
Reading format: Kindle e-book