Title: A Creature of Moonlight
Author: Rebecca Hahn
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers on May 6, 2014
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
A stunning debut novel about a girl who is half dragon, half human, and wholly herself.
As the only heir to the throne, Marni should have been surrounded by wealth and privilege, not living in exile-but now the time has come when she must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and life with the father she has never known: a wild dragon who is sending his magical woods to capture her.
Fans of Bitterblue and Seraphina will be captured by A Creature of Moonlight, with its richly layered storytelling and the powerful choices its strong heroine must make.
Ah, hyped books. Where do I begin? Rebecca Hahn’s debut novel, A Creature of Moonlight, has been garnering a fair amount of hype recently: from trade publications to blogs to word-of-mouth recommendations, I’ve been hearing only the best things about this one. But like with most hyped books, I can’t help but be disappointed by A Creature of Moonlight. It’s beautifully written, sure, but is it really on par with Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina? Not quite.
Like many enviable YA protagonists, Marni is a strong young woman with a capable mind and a unique set of skills: she is half-dragon and beloved by the fae that lurk just beyond her kingdom. Unfortunately Marni is not beloved by her countrymen and women, as she is not only excluded from her rightful position at court but also ostracized from society at large. Part I of A Creature of Moonlight recounts Marni’s life with her grandfather, the deposed King who gave up power to save her life. Their dilapidated hut is on the outskirts of a small village and wedged against the woods, clearly symbolizing Marni’s liminal status. Hahn is clearly a master of rhetorical devices, using Marni’s first-person narration to mobilize complex symbols, metaphors, and similes throughout the novel. The writing is lyrical and captivating, a refreshing change from many of the titles I’ve read recently.
While the writing was exceptional, the plot of A Creature of Moonlight was a major stumbling block. I feel that I can safely say – without spoilers – that almost the entire plot consists of Marni moving house a few times. Every time I’d begin to get sucked into Hahn’s world, I’d realize how repetitive the story had become and how little world-building there actually was. Marni tests the limits of her magic and her transformative capabilities, of course – but these instances are glossed over, deserving of only a few sentences. The girl can use moonbeams to make living creatures bent on vengeance, for crying out loud! I want to learn more about how that works!
On top of the world-building, I also wanted more romance. I know, I know, you’re all shocked. At first I found it very refreshing that Marni rebuffs several suitors rather than getting bogged down by all the mooning about that’s often present in a romantic sub-plot. But I quickly got annoyed when she kept refusing a certain man, especially since her reason for doing so was completely bogus. You don’t want to get married? Awesome. Just please stop whining about how deep your longing is for the Lord Ontrei. Ugh.
All complaints aside, I did actually enjoy this one for the most part. I really liked how much emphasis Hahn placed on family. I find that it’s a somewhat unusual theme for YA literature since so much of it is focused on the growth of personal identity. Marni understandably struggles with common definitions of family, and comes to realize that family loves you for yourself, even if you’re confused and torn between two worlds. Ultimately she learns that you can in fact go home again, as long as the ones who love you remain.