A Creature of Moonlight (2014) - Rebecca Hahn. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 313 pages.
A Creature of Moonlight is an enjoyable fantasy novel for young adults. Marni, the heroine, is being raised by her grandfather (Gramps). The two live an isolated life, in a way. They don't mingle with the villagers as often as one might expect. Marni, for the most part, is too interested in her garden and the woods. And Gramps, well, he's a lot older than he used to be. Still people come. Some important people. Nobles and such. Some villagers. Now that Marni is nearly grown up, men of all classes are beginning to see her as more than a flower girl, more than "Tulip." Does this make Gramps happy or worried? And how does Marni feel about it herself?
A Creature of Moonlight is fantasy. In the world Hahn has created, the woods are magical and mysterious and more than a little dangerous. There are stories--new stories, old stories, long-handed-down stories--of young women who entered the woods and were never seen again. Marni herself knows one such case. One of her friends disappeared in the woods. But Marni knows the woods. I wouldn't say she feels absolutely at home in the woods. There is a part of her that loves the woods, loves the danger and mystery. There is a hesitant part of her as well, that part keeps her coming home again. As she says so well later in the novel, "You can want a whole slew of things. It's what you choose that ought to matter."
Choices. Marni has difficult choices to make. Does she belong in the woods? Does she belong at the palace? For you see, Marni is no ordinary village girl. Her grandfather was the king. Her uncle IS the king. She is the daughter of a princess--a murdered princess. Neither choice appeals completely to Marni. The novel introduces readers to both settings. Readers see Marni reclaim her place in the royal family. They see her being courted by one of the lords. Readers also see her come into her own in the woods. These chapters in the woods are fascinating in a dark way. Marni learns what happens to young women who WANT to be taken by the dragon of the woods. But is either place right for her?
I liked this one very much. I thought it was beautifully written. There are sentences that are just WOW. The storytelling was nicely done. I liked quite a few of the characters. The characters all seemed appropriately flawed. That being said, not all the characters were given equal depth and substance. Even more characterization might have made this one great. But as it is, it is an enjoyable read.
"But she always kept on until the end. She knew, as I knew, that you don't stop a story half done. You keep on going, through heartbreak and pain and fear, and times there is a happy ending, and times there isn't. Don't matter. You don't cut a flower half through and then wait and watch as it slowly shrivels to death. And you don't stop a story before you reach the end" (11).
"My breath catches. Not just because I thought we'd gone over this, but because as he says it, for one crazy instant I think about saying yes. I think about living with this man, who's always taken my side, who melts me right away with his kisses, who believes in me and my innocence even when he really shouldn't. He really shouldn't. Before I can stop myself, I throw my sewing back on the floor and push myself out of my chair. Edgar rises to his feet as well, wary. "How many times is this?" I say, my voice shriller than I mean it to be, but I push my anger on, fall gladly into it. "What is it with you, my Lord of Ontrei, that makes you think that when I'm telling you no, and no, and no again, what I really must be meaning is ask me again? Could be I'm crazy, but I've no wish to be the stone you step on to reach the throne..." (181)
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