Title: The Moonlight Palace
Author: Liz Rosenberg
Release Date: October 1, 2014
The Moonlight Palace is a historical novel that takes place in 1920’s Singapore. It focuses on the life of Agnes Hussein, who is the last direct descendent of Sultan Hussein Shah of Jahore. She lives in the decrepit Kampong Glam Palace with her eclectic family and those who pay rent to live there. When outside forces threaten the Hussein claim to the Kampong Glam Palace, Agnes tries to save her family and her home in this coming-of-age story.
I enjoyed the imagery that Rosenberg brought to this story. I have never been to Singapore but I felt like the descriptions really took me there. I think the setting was beautifully established throughout the novel. I also thought that she brought in an interesting cast of characters. I just wish she would have done a little bit more with them.
I thought that the pacing was a bit slow in this novel. The first two chapters of this novel were simply info dumps, resulting in a slow start. I never felt any suspense while reading this novel and was never flipping through the pages to see what would happen next. I could put the book down at any time and not feel any sort of anticipation of reading it again. That being said, the ending comes to an incredibly abrupt halt. Agnes goes through the entire book wanting to save the Kampong Glam Palace and in the last bit of the book, she completely changes her mind. Agnes trusts a man named Adrian from the Singapore City Building and Preservation Department to look into preserving the palace if the Hussein family were to leave it. The novel ends with Agnes finding the original deed, which is the last thing she would need to leave Kampong Glam Palace in Adrian’s hands. I honestly didn’t feel any closure with this ending and felt like it wasn’t complete. Rosenberg never tells the reader what happens to Agnes, the family, or the palace.
Although I disliked the pacing, I think I disliked the constant slew of love interests for Agnes even more. Agnes is seventeen years old and she somehow has three different men express romantic interest in her throughout the story. I felt like Rosenberg was trying to build Agnes into a strong female character, but the reliance on men negated her strength. Agnes gets a job and talks about saving the Kampong Glam Palace throughout the entire book, but ends up letting an eventual love interest settle the palace affairs in the end. I think she would have been more interesting if she wasn’t constantly thinking of or depending upon the different men that she encountered.
All in all, The Moonlight Palace was a quick and easy read, but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. It was much slower paced than I had expected and although I did like the characters, I think that the story was quite slow at times.
If you have read The Moonlight Palace, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view The Moonlight Palace on Amazon, please click here.