The goal was to have two reviews for you today. However, I am extremely behind in OWL reading, since I don’t have work to keep me to a schedule. As such you might just get the second one tomorrow. Best!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
Synopsis From The Book
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 princesa, 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.
Fantasy | YA – PW |Talk of Death, Revolution, War and Battles | Patience, Open-mindedness, Prejudice
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Okay! Here we go! Got this baby in my FL box a while back. It is a retelling but gender swapped. I actually don’t know much about the retelling being done here but retellings are always fun. Are they not? Expectations are low, but I am going into reading this rather tired. Best of luck to me.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
I was so angry. For so long. Ximena was bigoted. Rumi was, or seemed, bigoted. Everyone hated everyone. Atoc was horrid. And then we got Princess Tamaya and my heart was settled, and Ximena started to understand both sides. The moment that happened, the tension I had with the book dropped away, but I was just so angry before. Not because it was badly written, but because injustice pisses me off, and Ximena was on the side of the oppressor. However as she understands more, the book made me feel better. HOWEVER, I kept reading because it was so BEAUTIFUL. Colors, magic, the world. Its all so beautiful, luscious, and tantalizing. I really, really loved the use of color for world building in this novel.
Ximena is acting as a decoy for Catalina, her closest friend for the last ten years. Ten years ago there was a big revolt, a revolution and the Llacsans attacked the Illustirans for control over Inkasisa. Four hundred years prior, the Illustrians had taken over their land and had lived as nobles over the suffering lower class of Llacans (they weren’t even able to go to school). The Illustrians lost in this revolution and Catalina was the only one of the royal family to survive. Ana, Genera and head of the Queen’s guard for the former Queen, saved Catalina and found the orphan Ximena and made Ximena her body double. They lived like that for years. They stay together always, and Catalina makes all the final decisions. Catalina has the magic of the stars (like divination), and Ximena can weave moonlight.
The book opens with Ximena realizing they are out of food, and are going to starve. Against creating rations Catalina says they will keep eating as they always have. The two argue, but make up. The next morning the Llacsan’s arrive with a message. The Condesa, Catalina, must marry King Atoc. They don’t have a choice. Ximena is told to go alone by these messengers, but with Catalina’s urging brings a girl named Sofia. Upon arrival at the castle, Sofia is immediately killed and Ximena goes into a brutal rage taking down multiple men before she is contained. She is taken to the king, who tells them to burn all her clothes. She meets her care taker, Rumi, who is cousin to the king, and a guard named Juan Carlos who is to protect her. Rumi smells, a lot. He is a healer and smells of all the herbs he works with and everyone notices but doesn’t say a thing. Upon meeting the king, Ximena demands the prisoners that he has be released. It is not two days later that she witnesses them be murdered by King Atoc, in a massive fight that was an execution gone wrong. El Lobo, a masked vigilante, almost saved them, but Ana was still lost.
Ximena is tossed in a dungeon for a few days. Rumi helps her with her wounds and gives her a text book on the history of their people. She doesn’t read it and demands a loom from him. Her wedding is to be on Carnaval, in six weeks time, and she has to get the message to Catalina, via tapestry and woven moonlight. When she is finally released, she makes it, but Rumi decides it is best to give the art to the King. Ximena sits in as the king listens to the weekly assembly of complaints from his people and instead of giving the tapestry to the King, she gives it to a merchant. Her intention is to do it to get her message out, but almost everyone else sees it as extremely disrespectful, because weaving is a Llacsan art not an Illustrian art. The Merchant did take it, but Ximena learns her people are stealing, because they probably ran out of food.
Rumi and Ximena fight a bit, and do not see eye to eye. The man who killed Sofia, tortures Ximena for El Lobo’s name, which she does not have. Ximena learns that the king plans to sacrifice his sister at the end of Carnaval, to the god of the sun. She, with Juan Carlos, learns that the people will not be settled if he does so. They will rebel, and she doesn’t see it as her problem, only better for them taking control. She searches for the king’s ancient relic the Estrella, wanting to get it back to her people to use. She meets with El Lobo on her quest, and fights with him a few times. She also then meets the King’s sister Princess Tamaya, who is a brilliant weaver and truly a good person. In time Ximena begins to question everything she’s ever known. She realizes she till hates some Llacsans, the King and Sajra, as they are truly evil, however most are abused by the system either way and she can’t hate them.
After a failed weaving contest that proves Princess Tamaya the better weaver, Ximena knows of the location of the Estrella. She meets with El Lobo who wants her sleeping drug (when she weaves of moonlight, she makes a moon dust that can put anyone into a deep dreamless sleep, but her). She knows, or thinks, by this point that he is either Juan Carlos or Rumi, but not which. They almost kiss, and she says no. At her dress fitting. Atoc beats her because she disrespects him (and won’t drop the neck line of her clothes). He tells her he killed his first wife.
The next day, Ximena meets with Catalina and tells her that she wants Catalina to help Tamaya. Catalina calls her a traitor. Ximena goes back and weaves her a tapestry with the location of the Estrella, but decides not to send it. El Lobo appears to her and she goes with him through the city. He reveals himself as Rumi and they make out. He takes her to the rebel’s hideout, and the man who killed her friend and tortured her is there. Ximena sees how many spies Rumi has. She tells him the location of the Estrella, and then who she really is and he is betrayed. He disappears for a few days and when she finally sees him when he comes back he calls her a traitor. She realizes that her tapestry was let free without her permission and Catalina has the Estrella.
The day of the wedding, Ximena has a panic attack and swears to her made that she is on their side. She reveals her truth to Atoc, and he tortures her in front of everyone, right as they are about to get married. He demands El Lobo’s name. She does not give it, but Rumi reveals himself. Fighting breaks out. In the mess Catalina kills many men, and saves Princess Tamaya. She also kills Atoc. Then Catalina comes with an army of ghosts, and Ximena duels Catalina getting the Estrella. She tosses the Estrella into the center of the earth and it is destroyed, but in the backlash of the destruction, she almost dies.
Rumi saves her life and asks for her forgiveness in not trusting her. He takes care of her. She speaks with Catalina who seems to hate her. Princess Tamaya banishes Catalina to the junggle and the book ends with Ximena knowing she made the right choice.
What I Liked:
Ximena; I really hated her at first, but as she learned more and her bigotry faded, I liked her more. The fact that she had to pick the best choice for everyone over her own family, really got me. I respect her and not to mention her amazing skill in weaving. I do have to say that I’m not sure that she was a preening bird, as Rumi said, at first. However I am sure that her actions made a lot of sense even if they were rude to those who saw around her. I did like how she did analyze her actions and what it seemed like to others, as well as her openness to learn after a moment. I appreciated seeing this story from the eyes of her, since the world really was different at the beginning versus the end based on how she viewed it. I think the author did a really good job of having me empathize with her.
Catalina/Andrea; I really loved her when Ximena loved her, and sorta was irritated with her when Ximena knew more. It’s interesting to see how someone’s views really can cloud them and how much your views on another can change as you change. I really hope she doesn’t become a bigger villain in later books.
Rumi/El Lobo; Wowow. I really hated him when Ximena hated him, and then really grew to care for him as she did. He is so interesting. A healer who is also a fighter vigilante. He purposely made himself smell bad and acted like a bubbling fool so that no one would doubt him. I believed him to be El Lobo from the first time Ximena talked to him, but I could understand how she thought it was his best friend and cousin. I really loved Rumi. His lack of trust in Ximena was fully placed. He risked so much for her, being a symbol for the rebellion and the people. I couldn’t help finding him hilarious and beautiful, either.
Atoc; I hated him with such a burning passion. It was brilliantly written to make him so absolutely disgusting. He was a complete and horrible villain that we saw time and time again. I always love getting these viciously evil characters who are evil to be evil. There was little to redeem him, even when Princess Tamaya tried to. I appreciate these evils when they are shown and not just said. Not all villains need to be grey, but if they are going to be completely dyed evil, I want to see the results of it and Atoc showed it.
Juan Carlos; The charming guard that I really did adore. I wonder if he and Princess Tamaya had a relationship, rather than Rumi. His death was tragic.
Princess Tamaya; She was a beautiful princess with an interesting power. She seems so good, and the people love her. I really hope that she doesn’t get corrupted as the books move on, because having such a pillar of good, really helped to balance the story.
Sajra/Umaq; I hated him so much too. He killed Sofia and then tortured Ximena and then was a double crossing slug who ran away? I don’t know Spanish, but after seeing the glossary of names, his names are so right. Evil and Traitor. He is both.
Ana; For what we got of her, she seemed like a hardened woman who would have done anything to take down the Llacsans. She wouldn’t have agreed with Ximena either.
Magic system; Illustrian magic is of the night and night sky. As long as it deals with the night the magic exists, meaning seeing at night, shadows, reading the stars for truth and the future, or even weaving animals to life. The Llacsan magic system is of the earth and sun. We see healing and the power over fissures in the earth, but other than those and Tamaya’s prophecy weaving, there is not much seen. However I love the idea of these night, day, and earth magics. I want to see so much more.
World Building; Inkasisa, Llacsan, Illustrian, and more people in their country, including the jungle. A long history of abuse and take overs. A long history of bigotry and racism. Inti, Parchamama, Luna, three different gods who give them magic. The world building had a lot more to do with the current systems and talks of the old system with a bit of older history. We didn’t get much but I did appreciate what we got.
Color; Illustrians only use shades of white and black. The Llacsans have color of all types. The way that they exist with these colors and what they mean, say so much about their cultures. The different colors that are used, and when they are, as well as how important color is to Ximena’s tapestries. I loved the colors so much of this book. Easily my favorite part.
Prejudice; I hated everyone in this book when I first started because of how uncomfortable it made me. However I did think it was both accurate and understandable. As Ximena grew and changed, the views on much of the world changed. I think that it was a particularly good work on the behalf of the author to make you question Ximena while subsequently having you empathize with her.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
I do wish we got more of the magic system from the sun and earth magic.
It was a good book but I was just so angry at everyone the entire time lol.
“Stop putting words in my mouth and head. I can speak and think for myself. Thanks.” – pg 274