As the only heir to the throne, Marni should have been surrounded by wealth and privilege, not living in exile—but now the time has come when she must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and life with the father she has never known: a wild dragon who is sending his magical woods to capture her.
Fans of Bitterblue and Seraphina will be captured by a Creature of Moonlight, with its richly layered storytelling and the powerful choices its strong heroine must make.
About the Author
Rebecca Hahn grew up in Iowa, attended college in Minnesota, and then moved to New York City where she worked in book publishing and wrote her debut novel A Creature of Moonlight. She now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with the winter cold, the wide sky, and many whispering trees.
Read an Excerpt
All summer long the villagers have been talking of the woods.
Even those living many hills away can see it: their crops are disappearing; their land is shrinking by the day. We hear story after story. One evening a well will be standing untouched, a good twenty feet from the shade, and when the farmer's daughter goes to draw water in the morning, there will be nothing left but a pile of stones and a new tree or three growing out of the rubble. And all along beside it, the woods stretch on and on, where no woods were the night before.
In years gone past, this happened now and again: a goatherd would complain of his flock's favorite hill being eaten by shadows and trunks, or a shed alongside the trees would rust overnight and be crawling with vines in the morning. But just as often, an old fence was uncovered by the woods as they retreated, or a long-lost watering hole suddenly appeared again, where it hadn't been for near fifty years. The woods come and they go, like the sun, like the wind, like the seasons. It isn't something to fret about, not in a fearful way. The farmers have always complained of it, but they've never talked of it as they are talking now of this advance.
This year, the trees do not go; they only come, on and on, and rumors from all over our land say the same. They are folding in around us.
It terrifies the villagers something fierce. When they come to bring our supplies or to buy some flowers, they mutter about it with my Gramps. I see them shaking their heads, twisting their caps in their hands. Gramps tells them it's nothing to worry about, that the trees will take themselves back again, just as they always do.
They listen to him. When he talks, it's as if they forget the state of his legs and see only the calm on his face, hear only the slow, measured way he has with words. They leave more peaceful than they were when they came. They leave less worried about the creeping trees.
When they've gone, though, I see my Gramps sigh. I see him look sideways at me where I'm leaning against the porch rail, as if I won't notice that way. As if I don't already know he frets more than he'd ever let on. There's no one like my Gramps for fretting. Any sickness going around, any rumor of bandits — I see those eyebrows drawing in tight. He'll not talk about it, maybe, but he worries, more and more the less he can do.
Well, and this time, could be there's something to it. Since I was small, since we lived here and made ourselves the flower people to keep from getting our heads chopped off, Gramps has warned me not to wander into the trees that push up right against our place — out back, beyond the flowers and paths and bushes, over the low stone wall that rings around our garden. But out here, living so close, it would be near impossible not to follow my curiosity over that wall, and I've had years to be curious. My Gramps doesn't realize — I only go when he's not looking — how well I've always known our woods.
There's not much Gramps could do to stop me, stuck as he is in his chair, needing me for every little thing. Oh, he could yell, and if I didn't come running, he could get himself up with his cane and wobble out the back, and if I wasn't there, he could tear me down something wretched when he saw me returning. But I don't go so far that I can't hear my Gramps's voice. Not just because I'm avoiding trouble. Not just because I don't want to scare him, neither, though those are both good reasons. What if something were to happen to Gramps and I wasn't there to pick him off the floor or run for help? Or what if the king decided that today was the day he'd stop tolerating those flower people, and he sent some men and horses down, and I wasn't there to scream and scratch until they killed me for my Gramps?
So Gramps doesn't know how often I go to the woods.
There are all the things you would think of living there: rabbits and squirrels and hedgehogs and, late in the evening, bats. The trees are spaced out like they must want to be. Nobody comes to chop them down. Nobody stops them from spreading apart or smothering each other or dropping their needles just as they please, in patterns and swirls and such. I wouldn't half mind being one of those trees. I reckon it's a peaceful life, with nothing but the birds, the wind, and the sun for your company.
It's peaceful visiting them, wandering this way and that through their silent trunks, humming and thinking my own thoughts.
There are other things there too, things you wouldn't expect.
There's a laugh behind a tree when nobody's around to make it. A flash of red from branch to branch, like a spark from a fire, but nothing's burning. A woman dressed in green, sitting alone on a log and knitting something out of nothing, out of leaves and grass and berries, out of sunshine. She looks up, and she has no eyes. Where her eyes should be there are lights like tiny suns, and she's smiling, but I don't know how, because she doesn't have a mouth like anyone else's, not that I can see. There's just a mist all around her head, and those burning eyes looking right at me.
I don't stop to talk to things like that. I used to, once, before I knew any better. Back then I used to play with the little people hidden under the bushes and make my own crafts next to the lady on the log as she knit and sang to me, and I'd fly away sometimes, though never very far, with great winged things that held me in their arms. I was always wary of straying too far from Gramps, even when I was small.
It was only gradually that I grew frightened of the woods folk. The laugh turned, bit by bit, from cheerful to menacing; the spark changed from beautiful to dangerous. I'd see the little ones eyeing me with something other than playfulness. I'd see the lady's clever fingers tensing as we knit, and I'd wonder just when she'd decide to grab my wrist, to take me away with her.
So I stopped listening, and I stopped looking. It's been many years now since I followed whenever the voices called from the woods. I no longer talk back to birds with people's faces, or watch as misty creatures dart through the brooks.
But when I slip out into the trees this summer, I hear the voices singing more, and I see the lights flickering here and there, yellow and blue and green, always just at the corners of my eyes, tempting me away.
I dare not go out when the sun is low in the sky. Then I'm like to forget, almost, who I am, and that I ever had a Gramps, and that the little people tugging at my skirt hem are not my people, and are not to be trusted, even though they bear the sweetest, most innocent faces in the world.
Yet I don't stop going completely, neither. When Gramps is sleeping the sun away, or when I've worked so hard at digging out weeds and pruning back bushes and hauling water to and from the well that I can't stand one minute more, or when I get to thinking on things just so, I hop over our garden wall and go walking out there, breathing in the pine and the damp, dark places of the forest.
It's a dangerous pastime, I know, but I can't help myself. There's a thing that draws me to the woods, even more than the peacefulness I find there. It's a humming deep at the bottom of my mind. It's a thrill that tingles, even when I'm only taking one step and then another, even when the woods folk are nowhere to be seen.
The villagers will tell you it's not just the creatures of the woods that require wariness. It's not just the obvious: the lights and the voices and the speaking owls, the faces in the branches.
It's the trees themselves.
There's something there, they'll say, whispering through the leaves, sleeping in the trunks. There's something that seeps through the spongy ground but never shows itself in any way you would recognize. If you walk enough in these woods, they say, you'll start to understand its language. The wind through the trees will murmur secret things to you, and you'll be pulled by them, step by step by step, out of the human realm. You'll be drawn to the shadows, toward the soft flashes of moonlight through the branches, into the hidden holes and tricky marshes.
The villagers won't let their children go into the woods, not even to the very closest edge, not even when the wind is silent and the sun shines full through the trees. It's an insidious thing, they say, the soul of these woods. It will rock you and soothe you until you've nothing left but trust and belief and naivety. It will fold itself into you, and you will never know it's there, not until you're ten nights out and there's not a thing that can bring you back again.
It's the girls that the woods take most often. Girls about my age, in fact, near grown but not yet settling themselves down to a husband and a family. There were one or two from round about our place when I was growing who walked from their homes one day and never came back.
The latest was a girl with dark curls, just old enough to be catching the eyes of the boys, and she was the closest thing to a friend I ever had.
That was just this spring, when she disappeared. She was my age, and she wasn't shy none. She'd talk up my Gramps; he used to smile more when she was about the place. She'd talk up the village boys, too, the ones she used to play chase with but now were chasing her, and eyeing her as if she wasn't the same girl they'd spent their summers playing pranks with, as if she wasn't as close to them as their own sisters.
It's not the easiest thing to keep friends when you live a good thirty-minute walk from the nearest village — nor when you're as close as we are to the woods. But Annel didn't care none about those things. The other village girls stayed close to home, but even young as a sprout, Annel would run across the fields and come stamping up to our front door, bursting in as we ate our breakfast maybe, or swinging right around to the garden, where I'd be at work. She didn't look like a farmer's daughter — she looked like a lady from the court, with that figure and that face — but she wore her skirts hitched up as often as not, and she threw herself down in the dirt alongside me as I pruned and planted.
Not that her parents approved, quite, but Annel had five brothers also running wild, and for one stray daughter to be off visiting the flower girl and her grandfather — who still spoke soft and sweet like the castle folk — there were worse things in the world.
When Annel came by our place, it was as if the sun had come down to visit. She'd go running with me out in the meadows, picking wildflowers, imagining shapes in the clouds in the sky. We'd talk things over, too: what it'd be like to fly up high with the birds; where we'd like to go when we grew up — across the mountains to the northern sea, or so far south, the winter would never come. Annel was always full of places she'd like to go. I think that was why she so loved our place — it was the closest she could get to another country, my Gramps and my world. Well, and I reckon I listened better than most of the village girls. How could I not? She'd paint such pictures with her words, of endless hills of sand, of bitter plains of snow.
Annel was good at that — making you see things with her words. Often as not, she'd stay clear through dinner, until the dark was creeping into the corners of the hut, and she'd curl up on our old wool rug next to me, her face all shining in the firelight. We'd have taken in a chair from the porch for Gramps. He'd sit straight as always, but with a softness in his face, as if he'd forgotten for the moment the pain in his legs, his fretful thoughts. And Annel would tell us stories, Gramps and me, and he would listen quietly, scarce moving, and I would eat them up like a river eats stones, rushing, gobbling every passing word, slipping on from tale to tale to tale.
Sometimes the stories she'd tell would get to be too much for my Gramps. A woman who got herself lost and never came back. A child without a mother, wandering far and wide, screaming so insistently that the earth opened up and swallowed it whole just to give it some rest. Then we would hear the chair scraping and the cane jolting against the floor, and Annel would stop talking until he'd gone out to the porch and sat down on the steps. She'd continue softer after that and stop her story soon as she could.
But she always kept on until the end. She knew, as I knew, that you don't stop a story half done. You keep on going, through heartbreak and pain and fear, and times there is a happy ending, and times there isn't. Don't matter. You don't cut a flower half through and then wait and watch as it slowly shrivels to death. And you don't stop a story before you reach the end.
Came a time as Annel got older that her parents stopped forgetting her. Came a time she only visited us once a week, and then once a month, and then not for months and months, and then we heard she'd gotten herself engaged to a wheelwright and would be married the next spring.
She visited me once that fall, just last year, and she watched as I turned the dirt over in our garden, readying the ground for the winter. I was listening to the flower bulbs settling into the earth, tucking themselves in for a long sleep. I was humming them a tune of warm dreams, dark waterfalls, green, hidden things. I've always been good with the flowers, just as I've always been good at listening to the trees and seeing the creatures that lurk in the secret spaces between their trunks.
For a bit, I let Annel stand there silent, unmoving as I worked. If she wanted to speak to me, she would. Could be I was angry with her some without realizing it. Even knowing it was not her fault, could be I blamed her for the lonely taste of those months.
"Funny," she said finally, when I'd reached the end of a row and she was still back in the middle of the garden, watching my shovel with a twisted puzzle on her face. "Funny, isn't it, how things can go and change all about you, and you can grow up tall and fill out your dress, and still there's something won't ever change inside unless you take it up by the roots and hurl it away as hard as you can? I imagine it's not this way for everyone. Is it, Marni?"
The crickets had silenced themselves for the summer; the frogs were sleeping deep in their lakes. A whippoorwill whistled close by in the woods, the only one speaking, the only one still awake. "No, I don't reckon it is that way for everyone," I said. I didn't know completely what she meant, but nothing was for Annel as it was for everyone.
"No," she said softly, but the breeze flipped it round and brought it my way. "No, some don't care about the tearing. Some replant whatever's going to work in the new soil. You do that with your flowers, don't you? Whatever works, whatever's going to survive, that's what you plant."
"I guess that's true," I said. "Whatever's suited for the amount of sun and shade we get back here."
"Not everything's suited, though."
"What if — what if, Marni, you're so in love with a flower you can't bear to rip it up? What if you couldn't smile if you didn't see it growing in your garden?"
"There's no such flower," I said. "Or there's only the dragon flower, which won't go no matter how many times I try to chase it out. And that's the one I hate, the one I wish would disappear."
"The dragon flower," said Annel, "which won't go no matter how you try to kill it."
"Can't make my garden without that flower."
She nodded. The dusk was growing now. "Was a time," she said, "I didn't think of nothing but running down from home to here, and back again when I felt the urge."
"When you're married," I said, "you come get a flower for your table every day."
"Can I, Marni?" She laughed a bit. "Can I have a dragon flower?"
"Every day," I promised her.
Then she moved, finally, coming down the row, and she hugged me, dirt and sweat and all. The whippoorwill had stopped. Only the wind through the woods rushed out toward us, flicked leaf bits in our hair. "Thanks, Marni," she said. "I'll remember." She pulled back, still holding my arms. "My mother sent me down to tell you about the wedding, but I guess you know all there is by this point. I'm to invite you — you and your Gramps."
"We'll come," I said.
"Well, then." She smiled at me, though it wasn't much more than a flash of gray in the draining light.
"Well, then, I'll see you again for the wedding in the spring."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Creature of Moonlight"
Copyright © 2013 Rebecca Hahn.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I’m still reeling from this three part fairytale that tells of the journey a young girl must make to find not only herself, but the role she is destined to play in her magical world as she learns who she really is and what it means. A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn is magical, veiled in a feeling of leaving reality behind and entering a world filled with creatures of all sorts, evil, loving, trustworthy and filled with deceit. It is for Marni to discern her path, who to trust and who to beware of. Young Marni lives with her loving grandfather, who has given up his life to raise her in relative safety after the murder of her mother at the hands of her uncle, the king. The daughter of a dragon and a human, Marni is fated for great things and so her journey begins. Will she feel the pull towards her father, the dragon? Will she learn the evil machinations of the King’s court and deftly avoid any traps? What of the young man who seems smitten with her? Is there time for romance or must that wait until her journey is over? Like any awe inspiring fairytale, this world is brilliantly colored and populated by wonderfully created magical beings, from Dragons to Kings and of course, a mysterious and magical woods surrounding the small village Marni lives in. With simply drawn characters and a plot that is easy to follow, Rebecca Hahn uses the beauty of her words to tell this tale of the coming of age of a young girl against the odds in a world she must quickly learn to understand and assimilate into. Character driven, this tale does not fall prey to the fast pace of an action-filled plot, but rather flows along with grace. Ms. Hahn has given strength to her heroine that is admirable and sets a powerful example for others to follow. I do believe it is the talent of the author that pulls this story together and creates a feeling of being among true magic and myth. 4.5 Stars I received an ARC edition from HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for my honest review.
Marni lives with her grandpa in a hut near the woods. Her mother was killed by her own brother and he wanted to kill Marni too but the king, and her grandpa, saved her. He gave up his throne to look after her and moved near the forest. Because the current king doesn't have kids, Marni is heir to the throne. Not everyone is happy about this because Marni is half dragon. It was the reason her mother was killed! Should she claim her birthright or is the lure of the woods too much? Well this was definitely different!!! I honestly have no idea what to say. I finished this a few days ago and I'm still thinking of it. This review mightn't be the best or most in debt one I've done but Ill try to gather my thoughts and make a bit of sense. Marni was a an awesome character. When her grandpa dies, she sets out with revenge in her heart to kill the king, but ends up liking the court life and growing to love the queen. Her life has been difficult and she never knew her mother or father. She grew up going into the woods even though her grandpa told her not to. She loved it in there. She never told anyone she went in there because so many girls went missing but to her it was home. She was strong, quiet and good. The plot was really slow but unique and magical. It was different than I thought because I expected a lot of dragons but its more a story of Marni. While I liked A Creature Of Moonlight, I didn't love it. I found it hard to keep track of the story because I was bored. It was the most confusing and captivating book I've read in a while. The whole book was really really slow and yet I kept reading simply because of the style of writing. It was beautiful, evocative and rich in detail. The author had a way of vividly describing things that pulled you in. The woods were super creepy and the atmosphere she created was eerie. The whole lore she created was fascinating and I loved the mythological creatures. Those were what kept me reading. Overall Its an interesting and unique debut, if a bit boring!!
I totally enjoyed this story, lots to fuel the imagination!
The villagers have been talking of the woods all summer. More than usual. Farther from the woods than usual. It's one thing, now and then, for a stray bit of the woods to encroach. A well lost here, a path obstructed. Such things are to be expected. This summer is different. The entirety of the woods seems to be moving in leaps and bounds, creeping closer than they have in years. Marni knows the woods are dangerous place--a place of magic and wonder that often draws girls to it only to swallow them whole. Still, time and again, she finds herself sneaking there--away from Gramps, away from the prying eyes of the villagers who buy their flowers, away from the life that was snatched from her the day her mother was killed. Marni has always walked a narrow path between the life the was stolen and the life she has with her Gramps. But now, with the woods moving closer and promises being made, Marni will have to decide where she will stand in A Creature of Moonlight (2014) by Rebecca Hahn. A Creature of Moonlight is Hahn's first novel. Hahn masterfully weaves a world here where magic is as beautiful as it is dangerous--a world populated with calculating lords and kings as well as dragons and Phoenixes. Marni is a fascinating narrator, one who views both the humans and the woods with a healthy sense of skepticism. She is a strong heroine with a strong sense of self and an even stronger desire to secure her freedom. She also has a very strange twang to her entire narration that is more reminiscent of a novel set in the Depression Era west (or just the West) than it is to this bit of higher fantasy. Marni reckons about many things and is none too afraid to say so neither. Her voice is often extremely jarring as readers are drawn repeatedly out of the story to ponder the choice of words on the page. The story is typical coming of age fare as Marni learns more about both sides of her "family" such as they are and, over the course of the novel, comes into her own in various ways. A Creature of Moonlight is decidedly short on peripheral characters, making the time spent in Marni's head often claustrophobic as so much of the story centers on her inner conflicts. While her observations of the woods and at court are often entertaining and razor sharp, Marni's motivations are never as clear as they should be. While it is refreshing and modern to see Marni repeatedly turn down marriage proposals, the logic behind her deep conviction to not marry is murky at best--particularly given the specific set of obligations that will come with a life at court (which Marni adopts at one point in the plot). Though often unsatisfying, A Creature of Moonlight remains a solid debut from an author to watch. Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Glass Casket by Templeman McCormick, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
Long and dull
I dont normally read fantasy books but i really enjoyed this story. It is beautifully written and i think it would be a great movie.