A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.
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. A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.
What an unexpected delight this book turned out to be. I received this book in a Fairyloot box, it isn’t something I would have probably picked up on my own. Then the O.W.L’s started and this was my instant pick for Care of Magical Creatures, to read a book with a beak on the cover.
Isabel’s writing drew me straight into the story. In the opening pages we meet the Illustrian’s who have been kicked out of their city by Atoc. Struggling for food and trying to find a way back to their home city. They get a chance to send a spy right into the heart of Atoc’s kingdom, sending Ximena as the Condesa’s decoy when Atoc demands her hand in marriage.
Like everything political though, the story isn’t black and white and Ximena finds herself trying to balance what she ‘should’ do with what she ‘wants’ to do.
Characters and Relationships
I fell in love with many of the characters in this book (and hated others!). Our main character Ximena was very well rounded. Her personal growth and ability to understand the situation was very natural. Being forced to see things from the other side and willingness to learn made her feel very real.
On the flip side we have Atoc, he has no redeeming features, thirsty for power and doesn’t care what he has to do to get it and maintain it. A truly hateful character.
So many others characters I could mention. You see everyone through Ximena’s eyes which means you are never quite sure of people’s motivations and who’s side they are on. I really enjoy grey characters; it always feels more true to life.
This book has one of the most well written enemies to lover’s relationship I’ve read in Young Adult. I was routing for them but it kept me guessing as to whether or not it would work right to the end.
Setting, Magic and Food
The setting is really brought to life through Isabel’s writing. The language she uses is so rich and evocative. I totally fell with the place she was writing about. I appreciated the glossary at the back as she slips in native words which added beautifully to the atmosphere of the tale.
Let’s talk food! The amount of time I had to stop for snacks, reading this. It’s made me want to hop on a plane to Bolivia. There is again, a handy list of dishes in the back and I can’t wait to try and track some down. The markets are brought to life through vivid imagery, at times I felt like I was there with Ximena.
The magic system is one of the simplest I have come across but also the most beautiful because of it. Everyone seems to be born with a unique gift which they can then develop. For example, Ximena can weave with moonlight and the Condesa can read the stars to predict the future. The way the weaving is described, the strands of silver flickering through the tapestry’s, I could see it all. Loved it.
I’ve spoken about how beautiful this tale is but not about how brutal. The fight scenes are equally well written. In fact, I would go so far as to say, that I have only ever read scenes that good in adult fantasy. The fighting was real, you draw blood, incapacitate and move on. No circling around, no extraordinary numbers against one individual. It was real, bloody and gory. The after effects were also well told.
Woven in Moonlight is such a rich tale. The writing is intoxicating, the story flowed and developed seamlessly. I believe that this is a standalone but I really hope we see more books set in the world that has been created here. It is truly beautiful and is a new firm favorite of mine.