by Sue Lynn Tan
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this title from the publisher.
“I trust that you do not want me dead. At least, not yet. When we want different things—that is the moment when trust really matters, when its true worth shines.”
Xingyin has won freedom for her mother, the moon goddess Chang’e but at the terrible price of incurring the wrath of the Celestial Emperor for outwitting him with the dragon pearls. With her spiritual power depleted, Xingyin returns home to the moon to recover under her mother’s care and heal her broken heart. But her quick recovery from her battle injuries reveals that the moon harbours a magic of its own, one that will draw unwelcome attention and challengers now that it is no longer forbidden to outsiders. Driven from their home and forced to seek allies in the far reaches of the Immortal Realms, Xingyin and her mother face an uncertain future and difficult choices about what loyalty they owe to the Celestial Kingdom.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess read well as a standalone adventure but left the love triangle between Xingyin, Liwei, and Wenzhi unresolved. In Heart of the Sun Warrior, Xingyin has rejected both men, and returned to the moon to live peacefully with her mother and Ping-er. However, now that Chang’e nominally has her freedom, other immortals can also visit the Moon Palace, and their machinations threaten to draw Xingyin and her family back into the distant intrigues of the court. Soon Xingyin is in mortal peril once more, facing the wrath of the Celestial Emperor. Worse, Liwei’s attempts to shield her have imperiled his own position and perhaps upset the entire balance of power in their realm.
Xingyin is still grappling with her feelings for both men, each of them having betrayed her in their own way. Family loyalties weigh strongly, and with all their identities revealed the history between their families only becomes of greater significance in the sequel. Liwei has laid everything on the line for her, but Xingyin grows increasingly doubtful that she can ever endure the life at court that marriage to him would entail. And while her feelings for the demon prince Wenzhi have never entirely abated, nor does she feel she can ever forgive him. Though her physical wounds have healed and the well of her spiritual power has been replenished, a broken heart is not so quick to mend.
While much of the plot centers around interpersonal relationships and questions of duty and forgiveness, the action comes from a challenge for the throne of the Celestial Kingdom. Liwei’s position as heir is no longer unassailable and there are many who fear he will still marry Xingyin even though she has not accepted his proposal. While she has little reason to trust Wenzhi, he is also no friend of the Celestial Kingdom, and as tensions rise Xingyin finds that he is a necessary ally if she and her family are to survive. Meanwhile, Wenzhi is bent on showing Xingyin that he regrets his past actions and will never hurt her again. But it is a long journey from reluctant ally back to friendship let alone love. Nor is Liwei willing to give Xingyin up, despite her reservations about life at court.
There is a lot going on in this sequel, from a power grab for the throne to the love triangle to the deaths of several beloved side characters to a reveal about Xingyin’s father, the mortal archer Houyi. It was at times a struggle to keep all these threads balanced, and in particular I felt like Houyi received short shrift in a book that draws its title from his character. But if you need to know where Xingyin chooses to bestow her heart, then Heart of the Sun Warrior is for you.
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