I’ve been holding off on this review despite having finished this book a month ago. I just didn’t know if I could write anything about it that does it justice. But to put it in simple terms, if one was to ask me:
- What’s your favourite book of 2022? I’d say Daughter of the Moon Goddess.
- What’s your favourite book in the past 2 years? I’d say Daughter of the Moon Goddess.
- What’s your favourite Asian fantasy book of all time? I’m sorry but it’s still Daughter of the Moon Goddess.
Now, is any of that likely to change? I mean, well, yeah, cause the sequel, Heart of the Sun Warrior, is coming out in November 2022, and from the sounds of all the ARC reviews, it’s going to be epic. I rarely preorder books, but you can bet I’ve already preordered that one.
Having read years of Western-style fantasies about elves and fae and vampires, one begins to blur into the next, and they all start to sound the same. Still entertaining, but same-same.
Perhaps I’m biased due to my Asian heritage, but I have been so, so excited to see more and more Asian fantasies published in recent years from the likes of Chloe Gong, Elizabeth Lim, RF Kuang, and let’s not forget the brilliant author of the book I’m gushing about in this post: Sue Lynn Tan. Unlike Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology, there are so many magical tales from Chinese myths and legends that have yet to be introduced to the Western market, and I cannot wait to see more.
Anyways, moving on. This is the first book of The Celestial Kingdom Duology. The story is inspired by the legend of Chang'e (嫦娥), the Chinese moon goddess. To save her mother Chang'e, our protagonist Xinyin (星銀) embarks on a perilous quest that involves:
- Disguising her identity to study with the enemy's son, Crown Prince of the Celestial Kingdom;
- Magical battles against legendary creatures;
- Forbidden magic, politics, treachery and betrayal.
So there's romantic angst. There's magic and action. There is a love triangle, which I normally despise. However, it is a rare one of those which is done so beautifully that I could truly see the relationship go either way. I mean, if it was up to me, I'd take both of them, thank you very much.
Most of the time, I find that it's a toss up between plot pacing and beautiful, descriptive language. Stories which are fast-paced tend to sacrifice world-building and linguistic devices, and vice versa, stories that focus on detailed world-building and descriptive language tend to feel slower. I don't know how, but Tan has managed to nail both. The writing in Daughter of the Moon Goddess is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, yet throughout much of the story, it was one cliffhanger after the next.
The world-building, writing style and language of this book are out of the world. It's so difficult to believe that this is Tan's debut novel. I mean, compared to many established bestselling authors, like the lazy, unedited mess I witnessed here… How? What?
It makes me sad that the market masses will still prefer the alpha fae male who likes to dress in black and the fated ‘mate’ who growls at every opportunity. But for those who appreciate multifaceted characters and good writing that will transport you to an entirely different world, you will not be disappointed by Daughter of the Moon Goddess.
Completed: 8 September 2022