Published: January 11, 2022
Format: E-book 📱
Tags: YA, Fantasy, Chinese Mythology, Retelling, Romance
| Synopsis from the Publisher |
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared 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, powerless, 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 emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, 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.
Keywords to describe this book: Engrossing, Action-Oriented, Lush
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Avon and Harper Voyager through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
| 📖 Content | 4️⃣/5️⃣
Though the story itself took a little while to get going (this book is long, by the way, 500+ pages, so I don’t begrudge it taking some time to amp up), I found myself growing increasingly interested.
There are a few things that I particularly appreciated:
📘 Time paid to showing the main character’s growth from inexperienced to skilled warrior
I quite enjoyed seeing Xingyin grow and develop as a character. Tan does an excellent job of showing (not telling) how Xingyin starts out as very young and inexperienced, unsure of herself, and with little talent and slowly grow into a warrior through her education, her tenacity, and her inherited strengths that she taps into. Much of the book is spent showing Xingyin encounter various obstacles and her overcoming them, giving her more experience and self-confidence. Not too many books spend the time to do this, so I very much appreciated seeing it.
📘 Well-developed story that took many turns and was quite unpredictable
I’m not very familiar with the myth of Chang’e, but I didn’t need to in order to enjoy this story. Tan built her own fantasy story from this mythology, so the story itself is it’s own thing and I really enjoyed the ride. There wasn’t any point in the story where I could predict what was going to happen. I had no idea where the story would conclude, and that’s really cool. The book itself is split into three parts and each part brings with it new challenges and new experiences for Xingyin. While the first part took some time to get into, I really enjoyed each successive part.
📘 Character dynamics, not just between the main characters but also with main and side characters
There are so many interesting characters in this story. I really like the focus on Xingyin and her growth, but Liwei is an excellent foil for Xingyin and I loved seeing their friendship develop, then seeing that friendship bloom into love. It’s a very sweet part of the story. Shuziao was another favorite character for me. Another warrior who becomes friends with Xingyin, she is so cool and her friendship with Xingyin is so sweet.
📘 Worldbuilding, including the fantastic magic elements and the environment that the characters inhabited
The world of the Celestial Kingdom is really fascinating. I love fantasy and this book has so many elements that really hit that sweet spot. The magic system is very cool, based off of elements like fire, air, water, earth, light, and dark. I liked seeing how the magic is used alongside martial skill and how the characters train to harness these powers. Tan also takes the reader to so many different parts of this world, so you get a really full view of this world, with lush descriptions. My imagination ran wild and free and it was excellent.
| 📝 Literary Value | 3️⃣/5️⃣
This book is full of beautiful descriptions of scenery and settings, of delicious foods and exquisite clothing. I found the action sequences to be well described, which I think is hard to get right. There are a lot of fight sequences throughout the book, so I was glad that Tan is so adept at writing them. Otherwise, the writing style didn’t stand out in any particular way. I think the book is easy to read, has all the important elements that make the story easy to follow, easy to picture and enjoy. It’s a solidly written book.
| 🎭 Entertainment Factor | 4️⃣/5️⃣
I really enjoyed the book! As I mentioned earlier, it took some time to get going, but once it did, I was hooked and I wanted to keep reading. This book was a lot longer that I expected, but I felt like every part of it was important and worth reading, so I think Tan made good use of the length. The interesting characters, coupled with the beautiful settings, and the nail-biting plot points all came together to make a really engrossing read.
| My Rating |
Definitely Worth the Read
Though I found the story slow to start, once I got to part two and the action came into play, I got sucked into the story. This is a very rich, beautifully crafted story inspired by the Chinse myth of Chang’e. I love the main character, Xingyin, and the friends she makes along her journey. I found the world to be interesting and the magic system to be pretty cool. I disliked the introduction of a love-triangle, but it serves its purpose as part of the overarching story. This is a solidly written book, and any fans of fantasy or mythology will enjoy this sweeping epic first installment in the duology.
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