Saturday, February 29, 2020

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

I picked up WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT on a whim because it was offered to me as an ARC and I thought the cover was really pretty. I was a little leery, though; the cover looked cutesy and cutesy fantasy rarely sits well with me. But this is one of those instances where the cover doesn't really match the book. WOVEN IN MIDNIGHT looks like it's going to be a sweet and sleepy middle grade fantasy story about some brave and plucky girl.

Instead... it's dark. In some ways, it actually reminded me of one of my favorite YA fantasy books, THE WINNER'S CURSE. Set in a made-up land inspired by Bolivian history and politics, the main character, Ximena, acts as the "decoy" princess to the true ruler, Catalina. Catalina is soft and weak, so Ximena acts in her stead to fool the usurpers in case they ever attack.

Which they do. And of course, Ximena goes in Catalina's place to their cutthroat and terrifying court where she meets the terrifying Atoc, a man who has risen up against his oppressors but who has let power corrupt and brutalize him. Now he is just as cruel as the people he claims to be fighting against, if not more so, and he's demanding that Ximena marry him.

There are two small gleams of hope. The first is a figure called El Lobo, a masked vigilante who's like a cross between Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel. He doesn't agree with Atoc's strongman totalitarianism and isn't afraid to say so. The second is Ximena's own magic ability; she can weave with the threads of the moon and imbue her tapestries with magic.

WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT has it all-- swashbuckling, forbidden romance, masked and dashing heroes, magic, court intrigue, strong heroines, adorable sidekicks, drugs and trafficking, high stakes, and difficult conversations and questions. It doesn't condescend or talk down to its audience at all. The world-building here is great, and the influence of Bolivian culture is strong with beautiful descriptions of art, lavish and mouthwatering foods, Spanish dialogue and words (as well as indigenous ones). The balance between the light and the dark was really well done.

I think there's going to be a sequel and I'm really curious to see where the author takes it from here!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  

4 out of 5 stars 

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