Author: Cindy Pon.
Skybright has been a handmaiden her entire life, and as far as she can see she’ll stay right there for the rest of it. But as she and her mistress come of age, things begin to change. Her mistress is acting strangely, hiding things from Skybright and excluding her from her new friendship. For Skybright, this is only the tip of her problems as she begins to undergo strange nocturnal changes. Something’s happening to her, and she doesn’t like it. As things begin to escalate, tying into the growing problems of the monster-infested world outside, the real question is – how far will it go? Is Skybright really who she thinks she is?
First, you should know that the content numbers may be a tiny bit off – I skimmed large parts of the book, including the end. It just kept getting worse. Skybright is the perfect devoted handmaiden. Which means she’s quiet, fairly lackluster, and thinks her mistress’s opinion is all-important. Unhappily, these qualities aren’t quite as good in a protagonist. She’s reactive instead of proactive for most of the book, and even when she does something of her own accord it’s in response to something happening to somebody she cares about.
Then there was the insta-love. The moment the man and girl/woman’s eyes meet, you can tell it’s going to happen. And it does, by their third meeting. They barely know each other, Skybright barely knows herself, and there’s not enough personality to have dynamic interactions. Skybright’s transformation was intriguing at first, but when she finds out she’s a half-child of a sexual predator, she chooses to reform her self-image; i.e., accept this and act the part. I mean… no. Just no. I forget exactly where I gave up and just skimmed the rest to finish this review.
Sexual content: Girl speaks of a “Book of Making” which, with illustrations, shows a girl “how best to pleasure her future husband in bed”. One character says handmaids are supposed to “help their mistress practice”. Two girls kiss. One character has her first period. A man finds a girl naked, asleep, in the forest, and covers her with his own tunic. Boy/girl kiss each other. Character finds two girls naked in bed together. One instance of sexual intercourse.
Violence: A servant is beaten with a bamboo cane. There are multiple fights between men and monster-shaped demons.