Moon Dark Smile by Tessa Gratton (Night Shine #2)
Ever since she was a girl, Raliel Dark-Smile’s best friend has been the great demon that lives in the palace. As the daughter of the Emperor, Raliel appears cold and distant to those around her, but what no one understands is that she and the great demon, Moon, have a close and unbreakable bond and are together at all times. Moon is bound to the Emperor and his two consorts, Raliel’s parents, and when Raliel comes of age, she will be bound to Moon as well, constrained to live in the Palace for the rest of her days.
Raliel is desperate to see the Empire Between Five Mountains, and she feels a deep kinship with Moon, who longs to break free of its bonds. When the time finally arrives for Raliel’s coming of age journey, she discovers a dangerous way to take Moon with her, even as she hides this truth from her travel companion, the beautiful, demon-kissed bodyguard Osian Redpop. But Osian is hiding secrets of his own, and when a plot surfaces that threatens the Empire, Raliel will have to decide who she can trust and what she’ll sacrifice for the power to protect all that she loves.
CONTRIBUTOR(S): Sarah Naughton (Narrator)
COVER ARTIST: LeVurong (illustration)
PUBLISHER: Blackstone Publishing
LENGTH: 432 pages (13 hours 6 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Seconary, Trans Main Character(s), Closeted/Questioning Main Character(s).
I love this book and I have so many thoughts they will soon be released as an essay about both NIGHT SHINE and MOON DARK SMILE. I love the way that queerness is showed in so many ways, that there's an explicit idea of generational queer connection and trans role models, Kiran's acceptance of any kind of queerness his daughter could display, and the idea that villains are those who refuse to adapt and change, thereby unlinking fluidity and monstrosity from each other. Osian Redpop is the son of the Sorcerer of the Fourth Mountain, sent by his mother to kill Kiran or Raliel in order to get revenge for his father's death. Instead he grows to care for Raliel and the Emperor's family, enjoying his time at the palace and then helping Raliel on her journey. Moon and Raliel are trying to free Moon from the palace, and much of their journey is based on figuring out how to become a sorcerer and familiar in order to free Moon from the earlier binding which enslaves him.
As a sequel, MOON DARK SMILE wraps up dangling threads related to the slain Sorcerer of the Fourth Mountain, Kiran's ascension to the throne, and the fate of Night Shine and her wife. There's a new storyline with Raliel's friendship with Moon and her heir's journey, with several big things both introduced resolved. The series seems to conclude as a duology, with a very satisfying ending which somehow develops several characters even further right as things wrap up.
Moderate CW for grief, misgendering, child abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, confinement, violence, animal death, death.
Minor CW for sexual content, excrement, parental death, self harm.