Monday 7 February 2022

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Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (#Ad)

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

I was sent this proof for free by HarperVoyager for the purposes of providing an honest review.

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Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Published: 20th January 2022 | Publisher: HarperVoyager | Source: Publisher
Sue Lynn Tan’s Website

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.
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Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan was one my most anticipated books of the year. A high fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology, expanding on the myth of the Chinese Moon Goddess Chang'e, a young woman fighting to save her mother, trapped on the moon? Absolutely right up my street! Except this might turn out to be the biggest disappointment of the year. I didn't enjoy it at all.

First off, Daughter of the Moon Goddess is marketed as an adult high fantasy, when it feels very much like a YA novel. There is obviously nothing wrong with YA high fantasy, I read a lot of it, but the majority of the time, the two are very different in regards to tone, the scope of the world building, and the complexity of politics, etc. So what I was expecting, what I was in the mood for, I didn't get. However, as I read and enjoy YA high fantasy, I kept on reading anyway. But there was a lot about this book that just wasn't enjoyable for me.

It's a super easy read, and I flew through the pages quite quickly, I just didn't care very much. I never warmed to Xingyin, and I wasn't emotionally invested in her story. And I think part of that has to do with the passing of time. At 512 pages, Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a pretty long book, though fairly typical for a fantasy novel. But so much is fit into these pages that we don't actually get to see enough. Time moves too quickly for me to get emotionally invested. I feel it probably would have been better as a trilogy instead of a duology, to give more times for things to unfold. We don't get to see Xingyin's character develop and grow. We don't really see much in the way of the lessons she has with Crown Prince Liwei, and as such we don't see her learn how to use her magic, which I'll come to. Two years pass between one chapter and the next, leaving the romance between Xingyin and Liwei to feel very much like instalove. Before those two years pass, she's only with Liwei on page for a handful of days. But again, after those two years, the months go by ridiculously quickly, so we don't get to see the relationship between them grow, so I just didn't find it very believable. And the case is the same later in the book with Captain Wenzhi, who she works under as an archer of the Celestial Army; feelings appear out of nowhere, because the time goes by far too quickly for anything to have page time to develop.

While the focus of the story is supposed to be on Xingyin trying to save her mother, it takes her a hell of a long time to be in any position to do so. She can't simply rescue her mother, she can't destroy the magic that holds her there. The only way for her mother to be freed from the moon is for the Celestial Emperor to free her. So the reimagining of the myth plays only a small part in the story. The focus is much more on the love triangle romances. Because of this, there is a hell of a lot of internal monologue. Xingyin drove me mad with her constant questioning. How does she feel? How do Liwei and Wenzhi feel? Was it possible for her to be with either of them? Could they have this? Oh no, it's not possible, it will never happen. On and on and on, and she gets so repetitive.

But she can't be pining all the time, right, or that would just get boring really quickly. So she also goes on various missions with the Celestial Army, and has to fight mythical creatures or opposing forces. For a lot of the book, a lot of this just felt completely unnecessary. She goes where she's needed, does what needs to be done, and returns. These various missions take up a few chapters, and they just felt so pointless. It turns out in the end that very small details of each mission become important, which just made those missions feel too convenient. They only took place so a smaller thing could happen that matters a hell of a lot later in the book. So at first I would be questioning why they were happening other than as an excuse to have Xingyin do something other than pine, and then later, once I realised the actual point of those missions, they felt very contrived.

On top of this, the world building leaves much to be desired. While we're given enough about who's who and the hierarchy of the characters, and various beings from Chinese mythology are included, the magic system was explained very briefly. An immortal's power is dependent on their life force. The stronger their life force, the stronger they are. But how it works is unexplained. Xingyin reaches for her life force and creates wind - but how? What exactly does reaching for the life force mean? How does doing so bring about wind or fire? How exactly does her life force create the wind or fire, or it's strength? These questions aren't answered, which is what I expect from an adult high fantasy. Xingyin just reaches for her life force, and what she wants to happen, happens.

I was really, really disappointed in Daughter of the Moon Goddess. It just wasn't for me at all, and I really didn't enjoy it. But a hell of a lot of other people have loved it, so it's possible it's a mismatch between book and reader. As such, be sure to read other reviews before deciding whether or not to read it.

Thank you to HarperVoyager for the proof.

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