Daughter of the Moon Goddess
Sue Lynn Tan
Published Jan. 11, 2022
Confession: my interest in Sue Lynn Tan’s debut novel, Daughter of the Moon Goddess, mostly arose from my enjoyment of the animated feature Over the Moon. The film was the first I had heard of the legend of Chang’e, the Moon Festival, or moon cakes, and while I anxiously await September so I can visit Edmonton’s Chinese bakeries for the latter, Tan’s book satisfied my need to learn more about Chang’e and her lover Houyi.
Though the novel is actually about their daughter Xingyin, it recaps the legend well and Tan even grapples with the two different versions—one where Chang’e betrays Houyi by taking the Elixir of Immortality and one where she doesn’t—offering her own explanation for Chang’e’s actions. It’s pretty brilliant.
But again, this story is actually about Xingyin, who is forced to flee from her home on the moon and leave her mother behind. She has to use her wits to survive in the Celestial Kingdom, and as her journey progresses she learns to fight with both magic and more traditional weapons.
Other reviewers have said it, but I’ll say it again: so much happens in this book. Xingyin’s tale is epic in scope and she has so many adventures over the course of the novel. But before you get to that, our heroine has some growing up to do, and the beginning of the novel, when Xingyin is an adolescent, felt very YA. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there was a brief moment where I feared the Celestial Kingdom was adjacent to the Land of Recently Overused YA Tropes. Fortunately, that was not the case and as Xingyin set out to make a name for herself, I really felt the book took off. Tan’s scenes of combat are well-written and thrilling, while Xingyin’s moments of reflection and loss are just as strong.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess is the first in a duology, with the second installment—Heart of the Sun Warrior—slated for release in November 2022. I am so glad I don’t have to wait more than a few months to see what Tan has planned for her second act.