Source: DRC via NetGalley (Avon and Harper Voyager)
Pub. Date: Jan 11, 2022
Why did I choose to read this book?
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a fantasy book that wasn’t based on Lord of the Rings or in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, so when I saw this book on one of the many “most anticipated books of 2022” lists I decided to give it a go. I’m also a huge fan of lore retellings, and I love learning about other cultures through diverse writers and their stories.
What is notable about the story?
I want to note here that I enjoyed this book so much that it was difficult to slow my brain down enough to list what was notable. This is the kind of book that, once you’ve read it, you run around trying to tell your friends about it, but all you can get out is “JUST TRUST ME, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK” so just know that I did my best.
- It’s entirely possible that this book has the best first chapter I have ever read. The agent that found this debut in the slush pile must have been like “holy shit” and then found the first publisher that would back a large dump truck of money up to Sue Lyn Tan’s house. If this isn’t the way it went down then I’d like to go back in time and make sure it’s the way it goes down. This is the fastest I’ve ever been hooked into a story, and for me that’s a HUGE deal when I’m reading (1) the work of an author I’ve never read before and (2) content that is outside of my usual cultural knowledge.
- The love interests and stories are so believable. It makes sense to me that these people would feel an attraction to each other (and I’m trying not to spoil things here). You feel what the main character (Xingyin) is feeling at the time – it’s like Tan put a spell on me and now I’m hers to do with as she likes and I don’t mind at all because EMOTIONS.
- ACTION: goddamn, this woman is out here writing lush love scenes, intricately detailed worldbuilding and garmentry, and her war/action/battle scenes ARE SO FUCKING GOOD I just want to die. The number of times I “left out a breath I didn’t know I was holding” are many and thank you may I please have some more?
- SUSPENSE: At around the halfway mark I began to wonder what was going on in the grand scheme of things. We’re following Xingyin on her journey from wide-eyed refugee to prince’s companion to an archer in the army, all in an attempt to win a prize that would grant her a favor from the king of the Celestial Kingdom, which she plans to use to set her mother, the Moon Goddess, free from what apparently is a prison and not a natural assignment – but then suddenly you look around and you’re like, wait. Something’s happening here and our girl is getting caught up in it, and the tone of the story shifts so subtly that you’re starting to wonder these things as a part of Xingyin’s storyline progression, even though Xingyin is not quite there yet. The multiple kingdoms aren’t messing around, and shit is about to get really real, really quickly.
Was anything not so great?
Honestly I have zero complaints about this book. Everything about it is gorgeous and perfect and no matter what kind of book you usually read, there is something here that will be a feast for your senses.
What’s the verdict?
5 stars on Goodreads, no hesitation, why haven’t you bought it yet? Hurry up, get out of here, go buy it or borrow it from your library, and if your library doesn’t have it put in a request that they acquire it! GO!
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