by Sue Lynn Tan
Publication: January 11, 2022
Series: Celestial Kingdom #1
** I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Xingyin is the titular daughter of the Moon Goddess and escapes to the Celestial Kingdom after she is discovered. Understanding that her home on the moon is more a prison for her mom, Xingyin dares to lift her mom’s punishment by hiding who she is to be able to strike a bargain with the Celestial Emperor.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess is reminiscent of the wuxia movies and Chinese fantasy dramas I watched growing up with meddling immortals, magical artifacts, and poisonous flying needles–can’t forget those flying needles. The great thing about the book is that it’s not 50 episodes long nor does the storyline drag out conflicts or prolong suffering. Both the miscommunication trope and the noble idiot trope are absent. All you drama lovers out there, and even if you’re not a drama lover, you know how aggravating those two tropes can be.
I appreciated the moderately quick pace of the book and how it spans a few years rather than months. It makes Xingyin’s rise to be the kingdom’s best archer more believable, especially when it encompasses multiple conflicts that feed into the larger storyline of lifting the Moon Goddess’s punishment. I was easily immersed in battle scenes and caught up in moments of heartbreak. Despite being broken into three parts, the flow of the story is not interrupted, instead, it helps emphasize Xingyin’s growth.
The conflicts are resolved quickly, most without any loose ends. While I enjoyed this aspect at first, I began to realize that because it did not linger very long with any one conflict, I couldn’t develop a close connection with the characters. Neither of Xingyin’s love interests, Prince Weilin and Captain Wenzhi, were very captivating. Weilin fell a bit flat for me, and maybe Wenzhi did catch my eye, but I didn’t feel like I ever got to know him very well. I liked Xingyin and found her love and loyalty to her mom admirable, but her actions didn’t completely move me either. Additionally, emotional tugs that were just beginning to form were oftentimes stunted. There was one moment in particular as Xingyin reflected on first love where this occurred. Her realization resonated with me, and just as I was letting them sink in, the next few scenes ripped the emotional impact away, preventing me from reveling in them and reducing the significance of the moment to nearly nothing. As someone who enjoys moments of character introspection, I was disappointed.
I was not, however, disappointed with the world-building and the overall writing itself. Because of Chinese dramas and folktales, the concepts of the world were not entirely new for me, but the world imagined in the novel was still stunning. I found a strength of the writing to be its descriptions. They were vivid and lush, with words that flowed freely like poetry. There was an elegance in them that painted a Celestial Kingdom one could truly believe was heavenly.
Although Daughter of the Moon Goddess didn’t meet all my expectations, I still found it to be a book that I enjoyed. I look forward to the sequel.