A Witch and a Werewolf Walk into a Bookshop – “Mooncakes” Review
Looking for a story with a diverse cast of characters and a happy ending? Looking for a nice, fluffy, queer love story? Looking for something Halloweeny that’s not really about Halloween? Are you a fan of witches and werewolves? Then do yourself a favor and read Mooncakes.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker with art by Wendy Xu is the story of Nova, a young witch living with her grandmothers. One night, her best friend Tatyana tells her that she saw something weird in the woods, so Nova goes to investigate and stumbles across her childhood friend Tam, a werewolf, battling a horse demon. The demon escapes and Nova takes Tam home, where Tam tells Nova about their strained relationship with their parents, particularly their stepfather, and explains that they’ve been wandering from place to place since they left home. Together, they – Nova, Tam, Tatyana, and Nova’s grandmothers – must figure out how to defeat the demon that’s been chasing Tam.
You want diversity? You got it. Tam is Chinese-American and nonbinary, using “they” pronouns, something that is handled effortlessly in the text. Nova is Chinese-American, hard of hearing (she uses her hearing aids pretty creatively at one point), and raised Jewish; the title comes from the pastries served at the traditional Jewish festival of Sukkot, which is in October. Pretty much everyone in this story is queer. Absolutely none of this is treated as though it’s a big deal, which is just as it should be. Even Nova being a witch and Tam being a werewolf is very much “whatever”; both things are obviously meant to be kept secret from the general population, but Tatyana is aware of her friend’s abilities and even helps her out with research, even though as a scientist she is skeptical of “magic” in general. It’s refreshing to see a story about a supernatural character with a “normal” friend where they aren’t forced to keep that part of themselves hidden.
You want a nice, fluffy, queer love story with a happy ending? You got it. Nova and Tam shyly navigate a first love while trying to figure out how to tap into Tam’s werewolf powers and defeat the demon, and Tam’s love for Nova actually plays a huge role in the climax. It does come across as a little “insta-love” in the sense that these two may have a history, but we don’t really get to see that history, so their feelings seem to come out of nowhere. That said, I am not necessarily opposed to the “insta-love” trope when the couple in question is as adorable as these two. I am a big fan of how Nova’s grandmother’s are happy, fulfilled, and present in their granddaughter’s life, because it shows there can be a future for queer couples. It’s really important that young queer kids get to read these kind of happy, fun stories where everyone gets married and no one dies. (No one gets married, that is a reference to Shakespeare.)
I flew through Mooncakes. I do most of my reading on the subway, and I read this in two trips (to work and home from work). It’s a very simple story brought to life by Xu’s fantastic, charming art style. It’s perfect for someone looking for something light and fun to read. I do wish there had been a little more background on the magic system (we find out near the end that there’s a council of witches so I’m kind of hoping there are more plans for this world), and it would have been wonderful to get more history about the characters and what led to their arcs. It also just kind of starts, and it just kind of ends. That said, the family dynamics, friendships, and romantic relationships are wonderful, and there is a lot of potential here for future installments, which I really hope there are.
I think a lot of you will enjoy Mooncakes. It’s sweet and endearing, with cute characters and strong female relationships of all kinds. Pair this with Pumpkinheads for a nice, happy, non-horror-filled Halloween treat.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker with art by Wendy Xu is published by Lion Forge and is currently available wherever books are sold.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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