Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez (a review)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 365 pages
The novel follows Ximena, a decoy for the queen (condesa) of the Illustrians whose throne was stolen from them by the Llacsans. Ximena, pretending to be the condesa, travels to the capital as the usurper Atoc's bride-to-be in order to locate a weapon of mass destruction that could change her people's fate.
Ximena really grew on me as the novel progressed because she displayed a lot of character growth. As new information became available to her, and as she got to know the Llacsans, her prejudice against them began to fall away. She realized that, much as she loved her own people, they weren't guiltless as she'd once believed. I also really enjoyed the characters Rumi (the healer) and Juan Carlos (a guard) and the rapport they built with XImena.
I wish some other characters, such as Catalina (the real condesa) and Tamaya (Atoc's sister) had been given more scenes in the novel than they were, as they were crucial in the overall story but only appeared a handful of times.
The novel was short for a fantasy and especially for a fantasy standalone. It most definitely felt rushed/like some things were sacrificed and could have benefited from another hundred or so pages.
The world is inspired by Bolivia's current political climate and includes other nods to Bolivian culture such as food, language, and dress. You can really tell that Ibañez is proud of where her family is from. The world of this novel is why I have become so addicted to own voices fantasy novels. When it comes from an author's own experience and their heart, it makes the world feel so much more alive. My only complaint was that I felt the world's magic could have been better explained.
This has been one of my favorite novels of the year and it grieves me to not give it 5 stars, but to do so would feel dishonest. I would most definitely recommend this book to someone looking for an own voices latinx novel, or a solid fantasy, or a book featuring a strong female character. Unfortunately, I had to knock off one star for the pacing and abrupt ending.