Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (The Celestial Kingdom Duology #1)
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.
TITLE: Daughter of the Moon Goddess
AUTHOR: Sue Lynn Tan
LENGTH: 512 pages (15 hours 1 minute)
GENRE: Fantasy, Romance
Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.
The worldbuilding unfolds slowly, with early mentions of the various kingdoms supplemented later on by more detailed descriptions once Xingyin actually travels there. The descriptions are evocative but not overwhelming, tending to focus more on her thoughts about what she observes. There’s a strong focus on Xingyin’s internal life, as her relationships get more complicated but she’s still keeping her parentage a secret. She’s the daughter of the moon goddess, having grown up in secret since her mother was exiled to the moon after claiming the immortality meant for her husband, Xingyin’s father.
I like the first third and I love the second half, in between those sections the pacing gets a little weird though it’s still pretty good. Mid-book events which in some other story might be a training montage instead are collapsed into a very brief mention as several years are skipped at once. Xingyin ends up in the Celestial palace, surrounded by people who despise her for her class and who would detest her if they knew who her mother really was. After spending several years as the prince’s companion, she tries to make her own way by excelling at arms, becoming a formidable archer. Her goal is to earn a favor from the emperor in order to request her mother’s freedom.
Once place where this excels is in relationships, specifically the way that Xingyin’s relationships with Prince Liwei and Captain Wenzhi change over time. It is a love triangle, but one which at each stage feels like there are good reasons for the choices Xingyin is making. She proceeds as well as she can while figuring out who she wants, if anyone. I love the ending, it pulls things together in a fantastic way and lays the ground for what the sequel might cover while still letting this first book feel complete.
I had an excellent time and am looking forward to the rest of the duology.
Graphic/Explicit CW for toxic friendship, toxic relationship, kidnapping, confinement, blood, violence, animal death, death.
Moderate CW for grief, sexual assault, infidelity, alcohol, bullying, emotional abuse, vomit, gore, injury detail, war, torture.
Minor CW for sexual content, sexism, sexual harassment, pregnancy, fire/fire injury, parental death