Woven in Moonlight has been on my TBR ever since it was announced. An ownvoices Latinx Bolivian inspired fantasy with a body double main character and weaving magic? Can it get any more awesome?
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: domestic abuse
Woven in Moonlight is a story about revenge, but not in the conventional sense. When we are motivated by our thirst for vengeance, what happens when we realize that the fuel we hold in our heart only has the possibility to burn our home down? I’ve been reading a lot of books about characters motivated by their pursuit of revenge, but Woven in Moonlight is a vastly different creature. Grounded both in magic, but also colonialization, this ownvoices Bolivian fantasy is a story that examines the truth, what light we see ourselves and our enemies in.
The summary hooks me every time I read it. A decoy body double being sent in as a spy, but uncovering the truth behind her people’s cause. Body doubles are one of my favorite plot elements, even though I haven’t read that many of these, but I love how it introduces a new dynamic into the story. Who is Ximena really? It’s like being split into two. This illusion of power, but in reality knowing that you’re nothing like the image you show to the world. What does that kind of tension do to not only the relationships around you, but also to your sense of self?
At the same time, Woven in Moonlight tackles colonialism, the ways we are taught to see our history in the daylight, without acknowledging the shadows. Discovering that our past is not what we thought is one of my favorite story lines and I loved how Ximena has to reckon with all these other truths, while also making decisions about the future. A conversation in the book that I absolutely adored is how people can seek to go back in time. To a world where their people were not oppressed. To a golden age of prosperity where whatever problems they see are somehow gone.
But we cannot ever truly erase what has happened. We cannot go back to an age that can never exist again. It’s unattainable. Wishful thinking and fairy tales made of illusions and manipulation. We think we have the answers in front of us, a power, a show of force, the battle to end the war. But it’s always made up of ghosts.
I loved Ximena as a character. With a tendency to act rashly, Ximena is forced to come to terms with everything she knew. She’s in a world of color as a spy dressed in white. Her rage is her fuel. It’s burned into her heart and twisted into something hard and glowing. But the danger of a spark is that it can burn down a whole forest. At the end of the day, Ximena has to figure out where her loyalty lies.
Will her course remain unchanged? Charging towards revenge? Or will she re-adjust the trajectory of her life to fight for a future without flames. Is the future we want attainable without blood? Our mistakes can haunt us, chasing our waking dreams, and we have to figure out if we can change.