Mooncakes is published by Lion Forge under their Roar imprint. The graphic novel is written by Suzanne Walker and illustrated by Wendy Xu, with letters by Joamette Gil. The book follows Nova Huang, one of the most powerful witches in New England who also happens to be hard of hearing, something I was delighted to see represented as a person who is also hard of hearing. While working at her grandmother’s spell book shop, Nova learns a white wolf might be in town. After a trek into the forest, Nova comes face-to-face with her childhood crush Tam Lang, a genderqueer werewolf, while Tam is battling a horse demon.
Tam seeks Nova’s help in stopping an evil force from using their wolf magic against Tam’s will. However, while working together, Nova and Tam’s latent feeling begins to bubble back to the surface and a spark is reignited. The graphic novel is a young adult romance set in a world of magic, mystery, and whimsy.
A lot of moments from Mooncakes feel like they come straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie – the way the characters feel like they are simultaneously separate from but also of this whimsical world of woodland creatures and magic. A lot of this is due to Xu’s artwork, particularly her coloring and the designs of Nova and Tam. The coloring of the book shifts a lot throughout the book, going from muted to technicolor-rainbow depending on the scenery and magic being used.
Even with the changing scenery, the story is always centered on Nova and Tam as they attempt to find the right spell and prepare for the full moon, all while falling back in love. Despite having grown apart, like any good friendship or love affair they fall right back into place like nothing ever separated them. Almost everyone on the planet has felt that with someone. It is very relatable even if it is between a witch and a werewolf.
Additionally, everything within the story feels organic; from Nova and Tam’s relationship to the way Nova’s family addresses her disability and Tam’s preference for the pronoun “they.” When Tam first arrives in Nova’s house after being found in the woods, they are nervous. After politely correcting members of Nova’s family on what they prefer to be called, it is never really brought up again. Everyone accepts it and moves on. It is refreshing to see a story that offers a positive representation of gender queerness while not having the entirety of the story revolve around it. The same can be said about Nova’s disability. She is clearly drawn with hearing aids, but her disability is never used as a plot point.
My only real issue with Mooncakes is the pacing. The graphic novel is fairly hefty and moves slow. The bulk of it focuses on building out Nova and Tam’s relationship, which is great, but at times it drags on. That being said, the story is delightful and would be enjoyed by fans of Studio Ghibli or the video game Life is Strange which is more adult but explores similar themes.
Mooncakes is in comic shops October 9 and in bookstores October 22
My only real issue with Mooncakes is the pacing. That being said, the story is delightful and would be enjoyed by fans of Studio Ghibli or the video game Life is Strange which is more adult but explores similar themes.