This Calligraphy Guild comp title candidate also made my anticipated releases list for this year. I don’t often read books within only a couple months of their release (unless they’re ARCs for review), but my library had this one so I snatched it up and… I’m really glad I only checked it out from the library. ;P You’ve already seen the cover that helped to snare me; here’s the blurb that played a part.
A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, 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 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 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—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
I hated this book. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. I pushed myself through 500 pages, hoping it would get better and then simply hoping it would end so I could write up my review, and when I finished I seriously wondered why I’d spent so many hours on Daughter of the Moon Goddess for the sake of a review that would take me about twenty minutes to write. (The count starts now.)
The first offense was the pacing. I almost dropped this book after the first two chapters. Not even kidding. Why? Because the pacing was so dang fast. And we’re not just talking “Let’s get the ball rolling right off the bat.” No. We’re talking “Wait, what’s happening? You just raced past the information I needed to make sense of this.” The character development (if you can call it that) and the worldbuilding were so under-explained in the beginning. How does this magic system work? What are the different realms and how are they related or separated? Why in the world does a girl who’s been living nearly alone on the moon know how to serve in a noble household and understand the motivations of bullies?
Once things finally slowed down around the fifth or sixth chapter, I thought I might be able to settle in. The setting was beautiful (if dull in the way it was described), I loved the Asian cultural elements, Liwei was sweet (if under-developed in his motivations). I was a little bored, and I didn’t understand why Xingyin seemed to hardly think of her mother when that had been the foremost issue in her mind in the beginning and there was no real reason it shouldn’t have been anymore… but I didn’t hate it.
But after a few more chapters, Xingyin and Liwei’s relationship took a turn. Liwei disregarded an impending betrothal that he knew about, Xingyin was hurt, the two broke it off, yada yada, and this is why I hate “forbidden romance” stories involving royalty because no one ever cares that the state of the kingdom is actually important and commitments are important and no you can’t just have some fling with someone else just because you want to. (…Can you tell I’m very sick of this trope.)
Anyway. After that, things just continue to go downhill. Character developments and events are frequently skipped past, it becomes apparent that Xingyin is very arrogant in her independence, she insists on doing things her own way regardless of anyone else and she’s outspoken to her own detriment… I really did not enjoy her character for the bulk of the book, and it didn’t even make sense. Why was she so focused on her own achievements and her own skill and bla bla bla when she was supposed to be focused on saving her mother? Her pride overshadowed the actual plot.
And that’s not to mention the love triangle, which took up 80-90% of the book. Liwei is betrothed. Wenzhi is… fine, I guess. I did actually kind of like him for a chunk of Part Two because I thought he might actually be a good influence on Xingyin, but then… that fell apart. Because none of the men in this book are allowed to actually be decent characters, apparently. (Maaaybe the General, but I don’t even remember his name and he didn’t have a big enough part to count.) Anyway. Liwei pursues Xingyin even though he’s already betrothed, and Xingyin puts up a pitiful fight against his attention. She finally decides to go with Wenzhi to start a home and a life together right before it turns out he’s evil. And then she gets her happily ever after with Liwei because he’s ditched his perfectly nice, kind, loving fiancée for someone he knew ahead of time he didn’t have a future with.
There is so. much. drama. And angst. And not nearly enough depth to the worldbuilding or the prose or the characters or… anything, really, because all of the page time was devoted to angst that wasn’t even romantic.
But. Rant aside. I did like Xingyin’s best friend, Shuxiao. She was the only reasonable character in the book to show up at any significant junctions. She was a warrior, but she seemed to have a good dose of femininity all the same. She was loyal. She was respectable. She understood when to keep her mouth shut and when to open it. Honestly, I’d much rather read a book about her. I might have actually been able to stomach it.
Oh look. We’re right at the twenty minute mark. What did I tell you?
If you’ve read this book and liked it, good for you. Personally, the worldview and the writing were pretty much opposite of what I enjoy in a book. But it did have its good parts–few and far between as they might have been, for me.
Rating: 2 stars (generously, for the sake of the Asian cultural elements and Shuxiao)
Similarity to CG: 1 star (for the Asian culture and the fact that the main character plays a wind instrument)
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