Book Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Daughter of the Moon Goddess (Celestial Kingdoms #1)
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pub Date: 11 January 2022
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

A fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e , in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm and sets her on a dangerous path—where choices come with deadly consequences, and she risks losing more than her heart.

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.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Attempted sexual assault, sexual harassment, blood & gore depiction, death of a parent, torture mentioned, kidnapping & captivity, war themes.

I read this with Leslie and both of us had more or less the same reading experience. We both weren’t impressed by the love triangle 😂 and I think that’s what impacted our reading experience the most.

TL;DR: Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a beautifully written Chinese mythology-inspired fantasy that I enjoyed but found myself having trouble fully connecting to. The writing was gorgeous, the world-building exquisite and vibrant, and the martial aspects of this story were unexpected but engaging! Xingyin was a very interesting main character; that said, most of the characters (to a point including her) fell flat to me and my least favourite trope, the love triangle, took up too much space in this book for me to be able to successfully ignore. I can understand why so many people love this book though and I’m glad I read it. I’ll be continuing on with the next book to see how things end!

So I’m definitely coming in with a bit of an ✨unpopular opinion✨. I didn’t dislike this but I didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else seemed to and, more than anything, what lies right beneath the surface of all my mixed emotions is disappointment. With the hype surrounding this book, I expected it to captivate me more but sadly, that didn’t happen. There’s a missing element that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it kept me from fully connecting with the characters and story, so I didn’t feel particularly invested in it.

There were some great unexpected moments that pleasantly surprised me though. Tan’s writing is beautifully lyrical, the world-building wonderfully descriptive, and the wondrous and magical elements of the Celestial Kingdom and the Immortal Realms were clearly depicted. I really enjoyed how this magical world within the clouds was so vividly brought to life. We’re treated to a vibrant visual journey as all elements from clothing, food, architecture, and the force of nature were described in great detail without being overwhelming, and it was easy to feel immersed in the setting.

The plot was also interesting and I liked reading about the themes of family, mother/daughter relationships and honour. This is a coming-of-age story as Xingyin learns to fend for herself after she’s forced to flee the only home she’s known. There is so much she has to learn and a great many challenges to overcome to get closer to her ultimate goal of freeing her mother. Xingyin is an interesting character. She evolves a lot from the uncertain young woman who (literally) falls into the Celestial Kingdom at the start of the novel to the fierce battle-hardened warrior she becomes at the end. We follow her journey over years as she learns about the history of the Immortal Realms and how to wield magic, and though this section in the palace was slow-paced, the action and pace pick up a lot once she ventures across the realms to defeat monsters from various Chinese legends. Despite her doubts and fears, she’s a fierce fighter full of grit and determination and I loved that about her! I appreciated that even when she has to do things she never thought she could or would possibly do, she never loses herself or her moral compass and always knows when to draw the line.

So it was greatly disappointing when her character arc gets bogged down by my most hated trope, the love triangle, and it wasn’t just her who was affected. I think Liwei and Wenzhi were also affected and it resulted in them feeling like flat two-dimensional characters whose personalities greatly depended on their romance with Xingyin. Others, such as Xingyin’s friend, Shuxiao, seemed to very selectively exist and only randomly show up when needed. Even the Celestial Emperor and Empress seemed to only have one mode—evil bloodthirsty megalomaniacs. I simply wanted more nuance from everyone!

Coming back to the romance, I personally had a hard time believing in the romantic connections between Xingyin and her love interests. Although we see her spending time with them, I didn’t think the strength of their feelings was well conveyed through their interactions. I mean, all signs pointed to romance so I knew what was coming but I honestly wished that they’d stayed good friends because those were the vibes I was getting! It’s no surprise that I didn’t like it when the romance started to eclipse everything else and Xingyin’s thoughts cycled around understanding why she has these feelings while berating her “fickle heart” for trusting them when they betray her and waffling over not being able to let either of them go. Although she doesn’t lose sight of her ultimate goal, I still wished the romance didn’t play so heavily as it felt childish and distracting.

Overall, while I’m disappointed that I didn’t love this as much as everyone else, I still think it’s a great debut that has a lot of promise for the second book to be even stronger. I’m still interested in reading on to see what happens in the conclusion of the duology, and I’m not-so-secretly hoping that the love triangle won’t have as large a presence as in the first book. 🤞🏽

Have you read Daughter of the Moon Goddess or is it on your TBR?

19 thoughts on “Book Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

  1. YES YES YES!! All of this. It all felt so friendly and so I wasn’t really impacted that much by the plot twists/betrayal. Like.. lukewarm at best and not gasping. Haha. I’m about halfway through the second book and the love triangle is so insufferable B U T the actual plot is wayyy better, in my opinion!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m so glad that I wasn’t the only one who felt it was more friendly! 😂 I know I was whining about wanting her to stick it to them and be like “peace out, boys” but yeah, the friend vibes were too strong! I also was in no way surprised by the betrayal twists and we always wanna be gasping at those! HAHA 😂 I’m glad to hear that the plot is better in the second book but the love triangle, Leslie… I’m really not sold…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Okay, I finished it last night and just don’t. Do not even pick it up. haha. I am giving it another 3.5 stars. Man, I pre-ordered both books and I think I’ll keep them on my shelves because they are gorgeous but I’m so sad about the price I paid. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt the same way about the book! The writing was so beautiful and I loved the world building and setting, but I wish Xingyin’s character growth hadn’t been forgone later to focus on the love triangle. I wish the focus on her arc had carried on throughout. Great review and would be interested in hearing your thoughts in the sequel, if you do decide to read it 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, someone else who felt the same! I’m so disappointed that her character growth got shunted for the love triangle. It annoyed me so much that I found myself rolling my eyes more and more the further I read, which is definitely not what I expected to be doing for a book that’s so well-loved and hyped this year! 🫣 I’m still waffling on whether or not to read the next book… From what I’m hearing the love triangle doesn’t disappear (I don’t understand!!)! Did you read the sequel?

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  3. YES to everything in this review! I thought I was the only one who struggled connecting to it, but glad to hear it wasn’t just me. I felt like it all moved to fast for you to properly get invested in the characters and I really disliked the Love triangle. But the writing was gorgeous and I’m a sucker for anything featuring mythology so I enjoyed it as a whole. Brilliant review, Dini 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh goodie, it’s always nice to find someone with similar thoughts. 💜 I honestly have only seen glowing reviews about this book with maybe a small side mention of the love triangle but… I cannot abide by this trope. It drives me mad! 😂 Maybe it was that the writing felt impersonal and that’s why I struggled to connect? I hate to say it like that but yeah, maybe, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Carla! I’m sad that the love triangle played such a big role in this one cos it really took away from the main plot where the MC is a bad ass and not waffling over which boy she likes best. 😮‍💨 I hope the next one will be better too!

      Liked by 1 person

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