In a narrative filled with elaborate, brightly hued descriptions and sweeping views of landscapes, The Moonlight Blade by Tessa Barbosa takes readers on a profound journey through the mythical land of Tigang. The story is one of battles, gods, foes, and prophecy, but, at its core, it is a love story that transcends place and time.
Narra Jal is born a cursed child. The black birthmarks across her neck indicate as much, but her life of obscurity (she lives in a caravan on the sandy outskirts of the city) has shielded her from the dangers of exposure, and from finding out what her curse truly means. When Narra’s mother is suddenly and mysteriously arrested, threatened with execution, and taken to Bato-Ko, the city that she had her daughters swear never to return to, Narra knows she must go back.
The city is crowning its next ruler. Narra knows this will be her chance to find and rescue her mom, but the mission is not an easy one. In order to access the highly protected swaths of government territory, she must go undercover, using her sister’s blood to gain entry, lest her own cursed blood expose her to further dangers.
While the plot centres initially on the rescue of Narra’s mother, the goals and objectives expand over the course of the story. Narra competes in Hunger Games–styled trials to become the next Astar; the winner of the coveted title serves as the physical manifestation of the great goddess Omu.
She soon finds herself inexplicably drawn to the current Astar’s guard, Teloh. They are on warring factions, and yet, the way he looks at her tells her there is more. In a world where there are multiple lives and incarnations it is not out of the question, as Narra suspects, that she may know Teloh from another life. But their blossoming connection comes at a great price; as their fates begin to intertwine, Narra realizes that they are destined to remain on opposite sides in life as well.
The Moonlight Blade requires patience. The narrative is non-linear, and terms, beliefs, and descriptions may not immediately make sense. But, if the reader can temporarily suspend the urgency to understand and allow Tigang to reveal itself slowly, they will experience this narrative as Barbosa intended – as an entire world. It is a tale that requires a steady journey through the various events, encounters, and revelations to slowly reveal an aerial view of this land from its beginning to the present.