A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn is a fairytale-like story of finding your place in the world.
as long as she can remember, Marni has lived with her Gramps in a
little cottage at the edge of the forest, selling flowers to the
villagers and the courtiers alike. The forest is a place of powerful
magic, filled with mysterious creatures. Sometimes, young women run away
into the forest and are never heard from again. The forest can even
encroach on farmland overnight, and it seems to be advancing across the
kingdom. Marni doesn't fear the forest, though, and it never creeps any
closer to the cottage where she lives. Perhaps that is because Marni's
mother was the only runaway girl who ever returned from the forest --
though she paid a horrible price for doing so. Marni's mother was a
princess, and she returned from the forest bearing an illegitimate
child, what was called, in that country, a "dragon's child." And for
that, her own brother killed her. He would have killed Marni, too, but
his father stood in the way of the sword, and promised to abdicate the
throne if he would spare the child. Now, Marni and her Gramps sell
flowers, and her uncle is the king. Marni is content to let things go on
the way they always have, but she is changing, drawing the attention of
both lords and village boys . . . and her Gramps is getting older.
Marni is not exactly a princess, but she's not exactly a villager,
either -- and, though the forest calls to her, she can't quite embrace
the fate of those heedless runaway girls. Where does Marni belong?
is a lovely, engaging, and well-written story. My only real problem
with it was that I had a hard time accepting the setup described above,
with the ex-king and the ex(?)-princess living in a cottage within
walking distance, apparently, of the castle. Perhaps it was the way it
was presented; by the end of the story I had fewer issues, but at the
beginning I found it rather hard to swallow. Still, I got past it and
very much enjoyed the story as presented. I'll look forward to seeing
more from this author, and would recommend this book to readers who like
stories with a distinctive fairytale feel and beautiful prose.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)