. Athena's Books: YA Wire...Two Moon Princess...in a Parallel Universe
Friday, June 25, 2010

YA Wire...Two Moon Princess...in a Parallel Universe

Out new this month in paperback is Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban. A hardcover version of the book was graciously sent to me by the author this past spring, and I promised a review of her novel for the same month as the release of the paperback.

One of the things I really enjoy about the book is the fact that the world of Xaren-Ra is a reverse set-up of the parallel universe readers are used to seeing. What I'm saying is that most fantasy books dealing with an alternate world have characters who live on Earth and who find themselves in another realm different than the one they know in their everyday life. But to Andrea, the heroine of Two Moon Princess, her world is her own world--the one she knows, breathes, and lives consciously everyday. But along the sea, along the Cove of the Dead, an arch stands as a portal to another world. When she passes through the arch, a contemporary California is a parallel universe to Xaren-Ra . Hence, the title Two Moon Princess. Of course, the two moons are also in reference to the copper moon, Lua, and the golden moon, Athos, of her home world. The portal only opens at full moon in both worlds, so leaving and going occurs in cycles, matching the different periods and changes in Andrea's life.

Xaren-Ra is a medievel world ruled by kingdoms, swords, and chivalry. It's a place of queens, princesses, and fair maidens. But just as is most medieval societies, the more important places in society are reserved for the kings, knights, and men in general. The only role Andrea has in her future is of princess-to-be-married. She is to be a lady in full gowns who sews and does "a lot of curtseying and smiling" while under the authority of men. It seems all women in Xaren-Ra fulfill these roles and know their place as women. I understand that if you are raised in a culture of patriarchy where gender roles are well-defined, then as a woman you will probably be accepting of the situation and probably also be happy and fulfilled in your given station in life. But, I can't understand why Andrea's mother, who came to Xaren-Ra from California is willing to live in this type of society. To Andrea, she seems distant as a mother and only concerned with upholding all of her daughters' lady-like behavior. However, her mother does show strength and calm reserve in several scenes and her love for Andrea is apparent in some of her actions.

As for Andrea, her desire is to be a knight with a bow and arrow as extensions of her forearms, hands, and fingers. She is not interested in romance or flowers or long-winded speeches of love, but rather in winning the Golden Arrow at the Games and standing by her father's side with the same strength and courage as the men who serve him and his kingdom. To Andrea's dismay, ladyship is the only thing she can aspire to. Unless she makes her life in California.

California has UC Davis where she enrolls for the fall semester with the help of her uncle who is a professor and who splits his life between Xaren-Ra and California. Her uncle teaches her what she needs to know to blend in and allows her the independence she has always craved. And then there is John, a good-looking graduate student that makes her heart skip a beat. Andrea knows she can't stay at Davis forever, but it feels like home to her already, especially since she knows what her life will be like in Xaren-Ra. Her uncle warns her no one must know of Xaren-Ra because history has shown men to be ruthless when it comes to taking over new worlds. He explains how Xaren-Ra came to be after a king from Spain fled from Arabian invaders and then escaped through a portal leading to Xaren-Ra. The Arabian invaders then ruled in Spain for several centuries until the Spanish reclaimed their land. Her uncle then takes Andrea to visit the remaining Californian missions built by the Spaniards. He gives Andrea a brief history lesson of the Spanish drive for conquest, resulting in the destruction of Aztec culture in present day Mexico and the destruction of missions and Native Americans in California by the sword and disease. That was my little history lesson from the day...thanks to Two Moon Princess.

As you know, my reading heart loves any sort of romance in a novel. I've already told you about John--he becomes Don Juan when he finds himself in Xaren-Ra (which is funny if you know that the name Don Juan implies someone who is quite free with his emotions towards women.) But there is also Don Alfonso de Alvar, brother to King Don Julian de Alvar. Both of these are from an enemy kingdom and both of them seem pretty arrogant. For instance Don Alfonso refers to himself as a "master in all the intricacies of courtship." But he may or may not be her guy.
The same is true for Don Julian and Don Juan. Andrea makes a funny comment after bringing John/Don Juan to Xaren-Ra--at this point she is still heavily crushing on him, and he has yet to make a move: "What was wrong with him? Mount Pindo was as magical a place as you could find in my world. And I, well, I was a princess. What more did he want?" Hmmm...now she's not so adamant about not being a princess, is she? What's funnier is that Don Juan is just like the stereotypical guy who can't take a hint or fall in love with a girl when the girl and everything around him couldn't be any better.

So, who is Andrea's guy? She doesn't know and we won't know until the end, which is another thing I like about Two Moon Princess. The author does an excellent job of throwing in lines that seem to indicate any of these young men might have romanitic inclinations for Andrea. She also throws in all of Andrea's beautiful sisters into the mix. Each sister is fully able to easily attract any young man, including all the Don's I just mentioned.
Shall I be honest? Here is the truth--I liked this book more than--do I dare say it? More than Graceling by Kristen Cashore. Once Katsa got her guy like halfway through the 400+ page novel, the magic was gone for me. Why keep reading?
Two Moon Princess has fatansy, action, romance, a strong-willed girl who kicks butt with her bow and arrow, and an arrogant and equally strong-willed boy who manages to open his heart to Andrea. Who does not want to read this? And if you go to the author's blog, you will definitely want to read it even more.
I visited the author's blog, espressolattemocha, and I love everything on there. She has a post about how many adults wish her great success with her novel, but are unwilling to read Two Moon Princess because it is marketed as a YA book. Well, I'm 36 and I like this book. Her words really resonate with me when she writes,

"There are several reasons that determine whether a book is considered young adult or adult reading. The age of the protagonist, the theme of the book, a requirement for, if not a happy ending, at least some hope at the end are some of these reasons. The quality of the writing and/or strength of the story is not."
I totally agree with her, and I have seen the same kind of snobbery toward YA books from some adults.
On another post, she writes how she was unhappy with the hardcover bookjacket for Two Moon Princess because it looked too middle-schoolish. Totally agree there! The book jacket made me not want to read it, but I just took it off and looked instead at the paperback cover image sent to me with the book. The new image completely speaks...MUST READ!
“The arrow knows the way. Just let it free.”
Burnt into my memory by endless repetition, the words
came to my mind unbidden, with the soothing rhythm of a
familiar song. But somehow this time, they were not just
words: A tingling feeling ran through my fingers, and the bow
became an extension of myself. I could feel the trembling of
the string and the cold of the metal at the tip of the arrow as I
felt the tension in my muscles and the pounding of my heart.

Then the arrow took flight. Like a falcon aiming at its
prey, it went straight to the target drawn on the trunk of the
distant oak. In the complete silence of the wait, I heard the
vibration in the air and the thump of the tree hurting as it was
hit in the center of the bull’s eye.


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