WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT
A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.
Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.
When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.
She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.
PRAISE FOR WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT
“Isabel Ibanez brings a modern story to an ancient world in her debut novel, WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. With immersive prose, original magic, and characters as rich as the Bolivian culture that constructs the story, Ibanez delivers a wholly unique book for the YA shelf.”
— Adrienne Young, NYT Bestselling author of Sky in the Deep and The Girl the Sea Gave Back
“WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT captured me on the first page. Ximena is a fierce and brave heroine—one I have deeply come to love—and the world of Inkasisa is so beautifully rendered I never wanted to leave it. Plot twists abound, the magic is uniquely drawn, and intrigue illuminates the pages. Isabel Ibanez weaves together a spellbinding, vivid debut.”
— Rebecca Ross, author of The Queen’s Rising and The Queen’s Resistance
“A story that glitters as bright as Ximena’s moondust, set in a wholly immersive world that’s both whimsical and deadly. With its slow burn romance and simmering intrigue, Woven In Moonlight kept me reading long into the night. Isabel Ibañez writes pure magic.”
— Shelby Mahurin, NYT Bestselling author of Serpent & Dove
“Woven in Starlight is a lush, vibrant feast of a book, set in a world as colorful and inventive as the fierce heroine’s magical tapestries. I could have remained lost in its pages forever.”
— Margaret Rogerson, NYT Bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns
“A page-turning tale of revolution and love, helmed by a brave heroine with a big heart and set against a vibrant tapestry of Bolivian culture. Isabel Ibañez weaves magic in her debut novel.”
— Amélie Wen Zhao, author of Blood Heir
My banged-up spoon scrapes the bottom of a barrel that should’ve held enough dried beans to last for three more months.
No, no, no.
There has to be more.
Sickness churns my stomach, and my knuckles brush against bare wood as I coax a handful of shriveled beans into a half-empty bag. I wipe dirty hands against my white trousers and ignore the sweat dripping down my neck. The kingdom of Inkasisa is in the middle of her stifling wet season. Even though it’s night, there’s no escaping the muggy heat.
“Something wrong, Condesa?” asks the next person in line waiting for their ration.
Yes, in fact. We’re all going to starve. Not that I can say this out loud. It goes against everything I know to do as their leader: A condesa should never show fear.
I school my features into what I hope is a pleasant expression, then turn to face the long line of Illustrians waiting for their evening portions. Drawn faces stare back at me. White clothes hang off gaunt frames, loose and big like the tents the Illustrians sleep in next to the keep.
My whole life, I’ve trained for situations like this: manage expectations, soothe people’s worries, feed them. It’s the condesa’s job.
We’re standing in the round storage building with the door propped open, allowing for people to crowd around as I sort through the provisions. Luna’s light casts rectangular patterns on the dozens of empty barrels piled on their sides, while a rickety wooden staircase leads up to the armory housing swords, shields, and bundled arrows. All we could carry when we fled for our lives the day La Ciudad Blanca fell.
What would Ana, our general, want me to say? Manage them. You’re in charge. Don’t forget what’s at stake. We need to survive until we can take back the throne.
I glance at the door, half expecting to find Ana’s broad shoulders leaning against the frame, moonlight reflecting off the silver wisps in her hair. But she’s not there. Ana left four days ago on a mission to chase a rumor about Atoc, the false Llacsan king—a rumor that, if true, guarantees our victory.
She promised to be back by yesterday.
An arm brushes against mine. Catalina, silently reminding me of her presence. The knot in my chest unwinds slightly. I forgot she was standing behind me, ever helpful.
“Bring me the wheat, por favor.” I gesture toward the wall the barrels of rations are lined against. “And the cloth bags over on that shelf.”
She obeys, grabbing the supplies off the shelf first and handing them to me, her dark eyes lowered. Then she darts toward the barrel.
“Condesa?” a woman asks. “Is this all that’s left?”
I hesitate; the lie waiting on the tip of my tongue tastes sour and wrong. My gaze returns to the dwindling piles of food at my feet: husked corn, a half-filled bag of rice, and an almost empty basket of bread. Not nearly enough.
A lie won’t feed all these people.
“We’re short on some supplies,” I say with a tight smile. “No beans, I’m afraid, but—”
Next to me Catalina stiffens, pausing in her attempt to drag the wheat barrel to my side. Normally it takes the effort of two people, but somehow she manages by herself. Which means this barrel isn’t full either.
The woman’s mouth drops open. “No beans? ¿No hay comida?”
“That’s not what I said.” I force my smile to remain in place as I come to a split-second decision—our best and only option. “We have to be careful with what we have. So here’s what’s going to happen: Starting immediately, everyone will receive less than half their usual ration, per family. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s either that or we starve,” I say bluntly. “Your pick.”
Voices rise up.
“Less than half?”
Another woman shouts, “How can there be no food left?”
A headache presses against my temple. “We do have some food—”
But the woman’s words travel down the line, catching fire in the dark, until fifty people clamor for attention, wanting answers, wanting their rations. They wave their empty baskets in the air. Their loud cries boom like thunder in my ears. I want to duck for cover. But if I don’t do something, I’m going to have a full-blown riot on my hands.
“Reassure them,” Catalina hisses.
“I can’t offer what we don’t have,” I whisper. Catalina shoots me a meaningful look. A condesa should know how to maintain control of any situation. “I’m doing my job. You do yours.”
“Your job is my job,” she snaps.
The people’s cries swell, bouncing off the walls and threatening to strike me down. “¡Comida! ¡Comida!” The crowd stomps their feet and pushes in, hot breath brushing against my face like heavy smoke. I fight the impulse to step back.
Someone in the crowd yells for El Lobo, and I tense, hoping no one else sings that stupid vigilante’s praises. Every time something goes wrong, someone inevitably brings up the man in the mask. The trickster.
“El Lobo can help us—”
“He steals from Atoc’s coffers all the time—”
“He’s the hero of Inkasisa—”
Oh, for goodness sake. He’s a man in a ridiculous mask. Even my niñera could prank that puffed-up idiotic pretend king. And she was eighty the last time I saw her.
“We want El Lobo!” someone shouts.
“That’s enough!” My voice rings out, sharp as the edge of a blade. “No one speaks his name in my presence, understood? He’s a scoundrel who plays pranks on the false king. That kind of reckless behavior could get us killed. The vigilante is dangerous and not one of us.”
Someone throws a rock at a window. Glass shatters, and moonlight-touched shards fly everywhere. Faces blur as my vision darkens and I can only make out hints of mottled cheeks and flailing arms as the crowd bellows for the vigilante. They press forward until Catalina and I are almost backed against the wall.
“Condesa,” Catalina says, her eyes wide and frantic.
My mouth goes dry. The words don’t come. I glance at the empty doorway, willing Ana to appear. But more people push into the building.
“I need . . . ” I begin.
“¿Qué? ¡Más fuerte!”
“I need you all to remain calm,” I say louder. “Shouting or throwing rocks won’t fix the—”
Their protests grow louder and louder until I can’t distinguish what they’re saying. My legs wobble, and it takes every ounce of will left in me just to remain upright. It’s not supposed to be like this. Ten years ago my people were the aristócratas of Inkasisa. But our way of life, our culture, is gone, like pages torn from a book. No more visits to the plaza to hear live music while strolling with friends in our long skirts and fancy leather shoes. Or walking Cala Cala, the prettiest path overlooking La Ciudad, where you can pick figs and peaches while enjoying the vista. Birthday fiestas are a thing of the past, existing only in my memory, but sometimes I can still taste my abuela’s torta de nuez, a rich walnut cake smothered in creamed coffee and dulce de leche.
Another rock sails toward a window, jarring me from my thoughts. Shards of splintering glass ring in my ear. My nerves threaten to eat me from the inside out. An empty feeling in the pit of my stomach makes my head spin.
Catalina touches my arm and steps in front of me. “What the condesa means is that we have a plan to get more food underway. For now we have plenty. Everyone will receive the usual amount.”
I cut her a warning look, but Catalina ignores me. So does everyone else. Her words work like a balm over a blistering wound. The crowd quiets and holds out their baskets, mollified, shuffling around her like chickens clucking for feed.
“Why don’t you all step back in line and I’ll sort out the food? Have you on your way so that you can put your children to bed, and have something to cook for your families tomorrow, all right?”
They file into a straight line like obedient schoolchildren. I step away from Catalina, my shoulders slumping. They don’t want me or the bad news I carry. I can’t give them what they need, so I give them what they want instead—Catalina. Their friend.
Something I can’t be as their supposed queen.
She knocks the lid off the barrel at my elbow and scoops up a handful of wheat. “Who’s first?”
Catalina distributes heaping portions of wheat and bundles of husked corn until only a smattering of provisions remain. Then she reaches for the barrels that contain the last of our supplies—for emergencies only.
I stand off to the side, my fists clenched and my mouth shut. I can’t manage a polite smile even if I try. Ana normally leads undercover raids to La Ciudad to steal food, but since she’s not back, who knows how long it’ll be before we get more supplies? At the rate Catalina’s giving out rations, we have mere days left. And just who does she think they’ll come after when everyone discovers how close to starving we are?
Certainly not to their friend.
Catalina spares me a brief glance, then she picks up a small bowl by her feet filled with a handful of dried beans, ground wheat, and an ear of corn. Her own ration she set aside earlier. She hands it to the next person in line.
“I need air,” I say curtly. Without looking at her, I head toward the door. The remaining crowd parts so I can pass. Glass crunches underneath the soles of my leather boots. I avert my gaze from their watchful eyes, but I feel their disappointment anyway.
The condesa has let them down.
Isabel Ibañez was born in Boca Raton, Florida, and is the proud daughter of two Bolivian
immigrants. A true word nerd, she received her degree in creative writing and has been a
Pitch Wars mentor for three years. Isabel is an avid movie goer and loves hosting family and
friends around the dinner table. She currently lives in Winter Park, Florida, with her
husband, their adorable dog, and a serious collection of books. Say hi on social media at
3 winners will win a finished copy of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, US Only.
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