With books meant for younger readers, it can be far too easy to tell where a story is going. There are certain tropes that telegraph the ending, like evil being vanquished, the protagonist struggling with a quest and so on. One of the best things about Rebecca Hahn’s A Creature of Moonlight is that the story doesn’t go where you think it might, and yet it still flows naturally.

The plot sounds like something you might expect in a fantasy: Young country girl Marni comes of age and must decide if she will challenge the evil king for her royal birthright or remain at home. Should she exact revenge on the king for killing her princess mother? Will she follow the voices into the woods and join her dragon father? Both? Neither? Marni must decide whether to find her place in the “normal” world at court or follow her heart and become a wild, magical thing—or maybe those aren’t really the choices. Maybe life is more complicated than that.

What makes Hahn’s story so satisfying is that all of her characters are truly human. Sure, some of them possess a kind of magic, but they are whole people—neither all bad nor all good—who experience internal as well as external conflicts, who make mistakes and bad choices and learn to live with them.

Hahn’s prose is slow and delicious, building to a denouement that is both thrilling and surprising. It’s also exciting to know this is her first novel. I don’t expect her to write about these particular characters again, as A Creature of Moonlight doesn’t have the sense of being part of a series, but whatever she writes will be worth the read—and hopefully will be full of more surprises.

 

Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through eighth level Catholic school.

This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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