Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

This book was a binge read if I ever saw one! I finished this one sunny afternoon, totally drawn into the story. 

This novel is inspired by Bolivian politics and history (which is a topic I know nothing about). In reading this, we are transported to another world, one with two sides of peoples who are struggling for control of their country. There's a revolution brewing and it comes down to the main character Ximena and what choices she will make. 

Having said that, there's also magic in this story. Ximena is able to spin moonlight into thread. Other characters have gifts too that come into play throughout the book. 

Of course, what would a revolution story be without a little bit of romance. I adored that part of the story. It was just enough that it kept me on the edge of my seat rooting for them to overcome all the adversity and be together. As this is a young adult novel, the romance was not explicit or inappropriate which I greatly appreciated. 

I greatly enjoyed the world building, the mythology, the use of other languages interspersed in the story and the atmosphere the author created. The descriptions of the scenery, the colours, the food. It was a whole experience.

One of the other things I greatly enjoyed was the use of other languages in the story, sometimes without an immediate explanation of what the word meant. Some of the words are simple to figure out based on context and I liked how they were added in. I may be in the minority in this though!

This book stood out in my mind because it just felt different reading it. Sure, it has the same elements that a lot of books (especially young adult fantasy) all have, but I haven't read anything quite like it before.

While writing this review I went over to Goodreads to refresh my memory of the story. I found a lot of comments regarding the history and politics that this novel was inspired by and many of the comments were not good. While I admittedly know nothing about Bolivian politics and history, I want to note that those who are more familiar with them feel that this book draws on racial stereotypes. Some have also said the author included the mythology to fetishize the exotic qualities of the people. Many have explained that author also put the so called "good" people as the colonizers and the "bad" people were the indigenous people of Bolivia. If it was written instead about Canadians or Americans and the Indigenous people, it would have been obvious to everyone the problematic nature of the story.  

While there is a realization moment, a change of perspective, and move in the right direction in this story, for many it's not enough to cover up the damage done in the rest of the book. 

As readers, we sometimes forget that stories aren't just stories. Sometimes they are pure fiction, and other times they are inspired by pain and suffering of a race of people. I think instead of asking "was this a good story?" we might want to instead ask "was this something that should have been written?". The answer won't always be "no" but the conversation that comes with that question is an important one. 

Recommendations: I won't tell you to read this, but I won't tell you not to either. While I did enjoy the story before I was aware of problems, I urge anyone interested in this book to look into it a bit more before you decide. 

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