THE MOONLIGHT BLADE, by Tessa Barbosa, Entangled: Teen, March 21, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult, ages 14 and up)
In order to save her mother, a girl must enter deadly trials designed to find a new ruler in The Moonlight Blade, by Tessa Barbosa.
I promised my mother I would never come to Bato-Ko…and yet here I am.
Narra Jal is one of the cursed, cast aside her whole life, considered unlucky. But with her mother’s life on the line, she will return to the city where she was born to face the trials: a grueling, bloodthirsty series of challenges designed to weed out the weak, the greedy, and the foolish. Trials to select the next ruler of Tigang.
Narra has nothing. No weapons. No training. No magic. No real chance of leaving with her life. Just her fierce grit and a refusal to accept the destiny she’s been handed. Even the intense, dark-eyed Guardian she feels a strangely electric connection with cannot help her. Narra is on her own. But she’ll show everyone what the unlucky can do.
Let the bloodbath begin. —Synopsis provided by Entangled Teen
The Moonlight Blade is a young adult fantasy novel that draws from Filipino traditions, customs, and mythology. In it, author Tessa Barbosa has created a complex world that is lush and expansive. She fully immerses readers from the first page on.
Narra is a layered character that only becomes more so as her story progresses. She is strong and bold and has great focus. Supporting characters are well supported and are successful to varying degrees.
The complexities within The Moonlight Blade are not without some problems. A glossary and the character descriptions — neither of which were included in the digital advanced reader copy provided to me — would be extremely beneficial. I know that I would have referred to both more than once, and my reading experience would have been better for it.
There’s a lot to keep track of in The Moonlight Blade, and I found that some of it, I just had to skip past rather than go back looking. Tighter editing or slower pacing in places could have made for a stronger read. That said, I did enjoy The Moonlight Blade, and always looked forward to coming back to the book when the chance arose. And I look forward to reading more from Barbosa.
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