I selected Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan as one of my most anticipated reads for 2022, and the bar has officially been set high. Tan’s debut novel can be described as nothing short of beautiful as it honors and expands upon the legend of Chang’e.
Xingyin lives a quiet, solitary life on the moon with her mother, Chang’e. Xingyin’s mother is secretive and sometimes sorrowful, but Xingyin grows up surrounded by love in their private slice of the world. One day, Xingyin decides to activate her magic and it catches the attention of the Celestial Empress. In a panic, Chang’e reveals to Xingyin her tragic past and shares that the Celestial Kingdom must never find out she has a daughter. Xingyin leaves the moon in a desperate attempt to hide but swears she will find a way back to her mother one day. And so begins the epic adventure of Xingyin and the trials she will face in the immortal realm to reclaim what once was lost.
I am astounded at how much plot there was in this book. Xingyin has an insanely full adventure, spanning three separate parts, and there is still more to tell. I can’t believe all that Tan was able to accomplish in just one book and tell it in such a satisfying way. Xingyin’s every moment is also immensely purposeful and has implications for the rest of the story. Even something as trivial as a joke informed a major event later on, and I had completely forgotten that moment occurred because it seemed so ordinary. To top it off, Tan’s storytelling is so smooth. Whether Xingyin was fighting mythical monsters or having a quiet moment with the prince, the words flowed across the page like silk.
The heart and soul of this story is Xingyin’s relationship with her mother, but most of what we learn about Xingyin’s character is through her interactions with new characters. I don’t want to reveal names here, though, because a lot of the adventure is discovering who Xingyin meets along the way. After fleeing her isolated life on the moon, Xingyin discovers friendship, companionship, and love for the very first time. Xingyin quickly adapts and learns to extend her heart in different variations to new people. These relationships are what keep her focused and grounded in her adventure. Xingyin is willing to sacrifice a lot for the people she loves, and it makes her selfless actions all the more powerful. It gets intense when she’s faced with choices that force her to protect either her mother or her friends.
What I love most about this story is the agency that Tan gives Xingyin. She really drives the story, and it’s not exactly all peaceful strolls through the gardens. Xingyin makes some really hard decisions and even in the quieter moments, she still takes some form of action and pushes the plot forward. It’s not like Xingyin makes rash decisions either, she’s very measured and stays focused on her goal. There’s truly nothing that could get in her way when it comes to the people she loves. Xingyin is strong and powerful, but she’s also not a ferocious force of nature. She’s graceful, unsure, and selfless. I wouldn’t say she’s an unassuming heroine, but I appreciate that she’s not a blazing sun either.
I experienced the same awe and wonder reading Daughter of the Moon Goddess as I had when I first encountered the legend of Chang’e. Sue Lynn Tan enchanted me with her beautiful story and brought a fresh perspective through Xingyin’s exciting adventure.
Rating: Daughter of the Moon Goddess – 9.0/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.