Book review: Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Title: Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Publisher: Page Street Books

Publication date: 7 January 2020

Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult

Page extent: 384 pages


Goodreads blurb: A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

Well another mixed feelings read. And this one I feel really awful about. I really wanted to love this one! And there are some incredible things about it. But I just didn’t feel it?! It’s not bad at all. I just didn’t feel passionate about the characters or what was happening. And this makes me feel awful because I was so excited for this and wanted it to be amazing.

Let’s start with the story! Ximena is the decoy to the Condesa. Years ago, a revolution of the Llascan people overthrew the Illustrians, forcing the Condesa and her fellow Illustrians to hide in their fort, protected by magic. But now the Llascan King Atoc demands marriage to the Condesa, or he’ll kill the Illustrian General, the one who’s magic protects the fort. To save her people, Ximena goes to Atoc to be married, fulfilling her role as the Condesa’s decoy. But once there, Ximena begins to discover the world isn’t as black and white as she thought, and maybe the Llascan’s need her help too.

First of all, the good. I cannot express how much I adored the setting. The detail and description is just beautiful, the world feels as beautiful as that stunning cover – and the cover matches the setting so well, I can’t believe how well the designer brought to life the world. The poetic language and description also features in all of the incredible food descriptions: can more fantasies have this level of detail focused on the food?! I am so starving after reading this and I want to eat literally everything described.

I also loved the weaving magic. That’s what first drew me to the book, because it’s so different and unique and I love magic systems which are so totally different to any other books. And that didn’t disappoint! I love the descriptions of the weaving, the animals, the moonlight thread, it was all beautiful!

Looking to the characters, gosh Rumi is just my favourite. He is such a gem, so lovely and yet so mysterious, so torn between his duties. I thought he was written very well throughout and made for an interesting character as I was never really sure which side he was on!

However, I just felt kind of meh about everyone else? Whilst the setting and descriptions were so detailed, the characters and the emotion felt very stilted. I feel like all the effort was put into the world and setting and everything else just wasn’t to the same standard. The stilted emotional portrayal of the characters just really brought me out of the story, I felt quite disconnected a lot of the time. I also think this could be in part due to how unlikeable Ximena was. Her thoughts and opinions on the Llascan people were really jarring and I really didn’t want to root for her, and the Illustrians, at all.

However, I’m going to hope perhaps it’s just me, and I wasn’t in the right mood to read it, because the world is just amazing. I would definitely still recommend this to try, but do we warned: read, and you shall be HUNGRY!

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