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Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand Review

Title: Waking the Moon

Author: Elizabeth Hand

First published January 1, 1994

497 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780061054433 (ISBN10: 0061054437)

Rating: 3.83


As a fresh student, Sarah treads carefully at the University of the Archangel and St. John the Divine in Washington, D.C. The stunning campus is full of mysterious shrines and towering structures, watched over by stone angels. Sarah is eager to explore her newfound independence, forge new connections, and maybe even try new things in the bedroom.

However, her journey of self-discovery takes a dark turn when she stumbles upon a horrifying secret that threatens to upend everything she thought she knew about the world around her.

About the Author

Elizabeth Hand, an accomplished author who has been recognized by the New York Times and has won multiple awards, has written a total of seven novels that include the popular book, “Waking the Moon,” as well as collections of short stories. Her writing has been featured in various publications, such as the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement.

Elizabeth divides her time between the coast of Maine and North London, where she resides with her two children.

Editoral Review

Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand is a haunting and complex modern fantasy novel, first published in 1994. Elizabeth Hand is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, known for her poetic prose and exploration of themes such as myth, feminism, and the power of art.

Set in contemporary America, Waking the Moon tells the story of a group of college students who become immersed in a centuries-old conspiracy involving the worship of a pagan goddess. The main character, Sweeney Cassidy, has always been drawn to the mysterious rituals and symbols of the goddess, but she soon learns that the goddess is not only real, but also very dangerous.

As Sweeney becomes more involved in the cult, she must navigate a web of political intrigue, power struggles, and supernatural forces that threaten to consume her and the world. Hand’s writing is lush, sensual, and full of symbolism, evoking a dreamlike atmosphere that captures the mysteries and dangers of pagan mythology.

Her characters are fully fleshed out and complex, with their own motivations, fears, and secrets. The conflict between the goddess and the patriarchal society that seeks to suppress her is a powerful metaphor for the struggle for women’s rights and the preservation of the natural world.

Waking the Moon is also a meditation on the nature of power, agency, and identity, as Sweeney confronts her own limitations and discovers her true potential. One of the strengths of Waking the Moon is its refusal to simplify or romanticize its subject matter.

Hand depicts the goddess as a multifaceted and ambiguous figure, who can be both nurturing and destructive. The cult surrounding her is not presented as a utopia, but as a flawed and often brutal organization, full of contradictions and conflicts.

Hand also shows the darker side of college life, such as sexism, homophobia, and violence, and the way they can be perpetuated through established social systems. The pacing of the novel is slow and deliberate, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in the world and the characters.

The plot is intricate and layered, with multiple timelines and perspectives that all contribute to the overall mystery. The ending is satisfying and thought-provoking, leaving room for interpretation and discussion.

Overall, Waking the Moon is a challenging and rewarding read, perfect for fans of literary fantasy and feminist fiction. Its themes and style are as relevant today as they were in 1994, and it will resonate with readers who are looking for a rich and intelligent exploration of myth, power, and identity.

I highly recommend it. 4.5/5.