Sue Lynn Tan’s Daughter of the Moon Goddess (HARPER Voyager 2022), with its gorgeous cover and intriguing premise, was a book I wanted to love more than I actually did.  It’s far more juvenile and tropey than I expected, and I had issues with the pacing, world building, and character development.  Xingyin is poorly developed and relatively stagnant.  While some of her flaws are intentional character flaws for our “chosen one,” others derive from a lack of editing and lack of tightening of the story.

The novel is inspired by Chinese mythology, and the premise is fantastic.  Xingyin’s parents were both mortals. Her father was a skilled archer who shot down a threat to the realm.  His reward was an elixir of immortality.  Xingyin’s mother, Chang’e, took the elixir to save the life of herself and her unborn child.  The Celestial emperor was livid that Chang’e took the elixir, and she was exiled to the moon where she became the Moon Goddess.  No one knows that Xingyin even exists.  If the Celestial Kingdom learns of her existence, punishment would be swift and great.

Xingyin leaves the moon to protect herself and her mother.  Disguising her identity, she sets out on a quest to free her mother.  Over the years, she earns favor with the prince and is awarded the opportunity to train at his side.  Her talents in archery are quickly apparent, earning her the respect of many soldiers.  The Celestial Emperor and Empress hate her, and they hate that their son is becoming enamored with her.  Passions are doused with a betrothal that will cement allies, and Xingyin begins to explore other interests, including remembering her quest and falling for Captain Wenzhi.

A love triangle develops in this battle between light and dark with a star caught in the middle.  Through it all, Xingyin remains on her private quest to save her mother.

There are lot of monsters, battle scenes, merfolk, mind control, blood, political intrigue, dragons, betrayal, deceit, and magic.  The relationship between Xingyin and the prince reminded me of Feyre and Tamlin, especially during one particular scene that I won’t spoil.  The relationship between Xingyin and Wenzi also has hints of Feyre and Rhys. 

There are parts, particularly toward the latter half, which are quite lovely, but I found the novel a bit disappointing.  It could have been great, but it just barely scratches the surface.  Much like Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones¸ I think the book struggled with what it wanted to be.  Adult high fantasy it is not.  I would place it between middle grade and YA fantasy, but it needs tighter editing and a clearer focus. 

This book is well-loved, so I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I doubt I’ll be continuing with the duology.

But that cover…

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