Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published May 6, 2014

I loved Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, so I thought A Creature of Moonlight would be just as easy to love.

It’s a novel for young teens about a girl named Marni who lives in the woods with her grandfather. The two of them are outcasts, and scrape by making a living growing and selling flowers to nearby villagers and nobles from court. As Marni matures, she eventually feels a strong draw to runaway to the woods, which are a magical place hiding sprites, living trees, mythical animals, and a dragon. When her life is threatened by the king, Marni flees and hides in the woods, and discovers exactly why the king wants her dead.

I had lots of questions about Marni’s character and her family background, which kept me reading. As Marni’s past is revealed, there are a few twists and surprises, which I won’t spoil in this review. She is an independent and impulsive character and there are many scenes and lines of her’s that I cringed at, for how rude or headstrong she was.

Overall, I was unsatisfied with the novel because it felt like there were gaps, and subplots that are underdeveloped. For example, I wanted more scenes between Marni and the dragon. She talks of riding along during his flights, but we don’t get to witness it. Characters are also superficially developed. Marni’s grandfather is predictable. The king is just lightly sketched in. Even Marni’s friend, Annel, and the Queen — the two people who are kind to Marni, and whom she thinks of fondly — are only developed generally.

The book creates several intriguing threads, but I felt let-down by the latter part of the story because I couldn’t feel a strong connection to Marni. I just couldn’t immerse myself in the plot like I normally can, and I suspect it had something to do with the Marni’s point-of-view, and the gaps that remained. I also found jarring, the introspective voice that emerged near the end, which indicates to me that the pacing wasn’t quite right for the change in Marni’s thinking.

A Creature of Moonlight could almost be the origin story to a powerful, ruthless, impulsive witch like Maleficent, but it falls short in the end. There are magical ideas and elements, but I wanted more from the characters and plot.