I received an advanced review copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
Series: The Celestial Kingdom #1
Published: January 2022
A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared 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, 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 learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.
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 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—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
Well, what a ride this book was! Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a highly evocative and captivating fantasy steeped in Chinese mythology and I was so here for all of it!
I knew this book would be quite something right from the start, where we jump straight into it with a chase scene shortly after the brief introduction. All the settings were gorgeously drawn, with very vivid descriptions (at one point, I could almost smell the flowers!), and the worldbuilding was absolutely on point! This world feels rich and deep, and even though I was a bit confused by all the names at first (alas, a common problem for me with fantasy), by the end I had it all pretty much clear in my head. There were intrigue, drama, politics, secrets and backstabbing, and it was delicious. Plus, dragons!
Xingyin was an interesting main character and I loved watching her grow up throughout the book. Her journey from servant to archer in the Celestial army was a delight to follow, as she finds new ways to make her own fortune, constantly trying to free her mother. I also liked the bond she developed with her study companion – none other than the Celestial Emperor’s son. The relationships were probably the best thing in this: be they family relationships, romantic ones or just friendships, they all felt teased out perfectly and given a chance to grow in a way that made sense within the story. There is a love triangle, which I honestly wasn’t terribly keen on but it did make sense so I wasn’t too annoyed, despite rolling my eyes maybe a few times.
The plot kept me on my toes for a while, trying to guess at all the mysteries and secrets, and there were a few surprises there! I struggled a bit with the pace in certain sections towards the middle that felt a tiny bit repetitive but maybe it had more to do with me being extra tired when I read them rather than it being the book’s fault.
Overall, this is a great epic fantasy and a fantastic first book in the duology. I’m curious to see where the story will go next, since most of the mysteries seem to have wrapped up in this one.