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Waking the Moon

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,936 ratings  ·  189 reviews
Like all new students, Sweeney moves with caution at Washington, D.C.'s University of the Archangel and St. John the Divine. It is a strange place of brooding shrines and gleaming towers, guarded by stone angels. For Sweeney, college is a time to experiment with sex, to explore new friendships. It is a time of freedom and discovery--until she makes the wrong discovery.
Paperback, 497 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by Eos (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,936 ratings  ·  189 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it

During her first week as a student at The University of the Archangels and St. John The Divine, Sweeney Cassady becomes friends with Angela and Oliver, a pair of charismatic and beautiful young people who have been chosen for great things by the Goddess, and soon her destiny reveals itself to be mysteriously bound up with theirs. Opposing the Great Mother is an ancient brotherhood of mages known as the Benandanti, who have watched throughout the centuries for signs of a new advent of the ancient
I can't remember exactly when I stumbled upon this book at the library, but judging from the publication date (1994)... in 1994 I was in high school, and I probably picked this up somewhere close to graduation. I was looking forward to college, so this book appealed to me on that level, and I was messing around with funny things like tarot and runes and moon phases and stuff. I loved everything about this book, from Angelica's peacock blue pen and her scent of sandalwood and oranges, to Oliver's ...more
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This had been my favorite book for years. Despite, or maybe because of, the dark adventures our heroine, Sweeney, witnesses and partakes of, this book really spoke to me and reminded me very strongly of my own younger adventures. Also, this book introduced me to C.P. Kavafy, and I'm forever indebted to that. Even sitting here writing this review, some of that magic comes rolling back into me, reminding me of that time of my life. And Oliver, god, Oliver. Haven't read the book in about four ...more
Nov 18, 2010 rated it liked it
I can tell, even before I've finished typing one sentence into this dialogue box, that this is going to be a very long review. Why? Because I really liked the first two-thirds of this book. Loved it even, for the sensual, pungent writing, the overwrought but undeniably effective atmospherics, the genderbending, the rampant bisexuality of the ensemble cast, the references to UC Berkeley, the evocation of a very specific kind of college-aged lethary & alienation, the violence of feeling that ...more
Waking the Moon is entitled to its 5 stars, if only because Hand introduced me to the melancholic Greek poet C.P Cavafy. Fortunately, this was such a captivating read as well. Partly because I first discovered Waking the Moon when I was living the college life myself, flirting with the occult and occasionally attending goth parties in abandoned churches. The parallels I (thought I) found were the sprinkles on top of this book and its successor Black Light.

Hand masterly crafts a story that often
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
This is my second time through Waking the Moon, and it is just such a PLEASURABLE book, lush and spooky and expansive. On first read I expected a horror novel, and was a little disappointed, but taken as a feverishly overwritten dark fantasy, it can't be beat. It reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, but I suppose this is American Goddesses, as narrator Sweeney finds her college friend becoming some sort of moon deity who just might destroy the Earth. I love that Hand has not weighted ...more
Part fantasy, part gothic horror, part mythology, part twisted love story. It's dark, lush, sensual, and quite creepy in places. "I'll love you next time, I promise" just about broke my heart.

The first third is a bit slow but once you get to the weekend retreat, the pace picks up a lot. There were quite a few parts where I couldn't look away, let alone put the book down.

I was all set to give it 5 stars up until the climax (view spoiler)
Karen Witzler
Mar 16, 2018 marked it as could-not-enter
Shelves: novels-1980-s
I tried - I don't like angels. The early college scenes were great - but I didn't like the characters very much. Loved the description of Seventies clothing. Then I made a huge mistake and skipped ahead and stumbled into that whole Pasiphae thing - reminded me of that time I was reading one of Anne Rice's vampire books and the main character sucked menstrual blood from a used tampon - and I was just done. No rating.
Here is my one run-on sentence review: I hated the pretentious goth bohemian intellectual stab-me-in-the-face characters that I can't stand in real life (GOD. HATE. HATE SO MUCH) but I really enjoyed Elizabeth Hand's integration of mythology into her world-building, as well as her lovely prose which is why I give this three stars and not negative eleventybillion because of the irritating fucktardness of her characters.
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rather an amazing combination of horror, fantasy, mythos and suspense. From the beginning when a main character takes an ancient, crescent-shaped blade and...well, let me just say I was riveted to the story from the start.

The title caught my eye in a bookstore. A lucky find! The book is one of my favorites now and I have read other works by Hand.
I wrote the above in the mid 1990s when Waking the Moon was published. I just now read a review someone
May 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: genre-sff
I found this novel frustrating, as the main character rarely actually does anything -- events happen to her, and around her, and she drifts on through them, emoting about them but never taking any decisive action. I also find it bemusing that so many people tout it as a feminist work; (view spoiler) ...more
May 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: heroine, novel, fantasy, myth
I found the story boring. The characters are narrow and stereotypes of archetypal myth figures but not as well done as the classic myths. Tries to use sex scenes to tantalize and stimulate but they aren't new or original.

It doesn't really move along. First the main character is in college then it's 20 years later. She's an ostrich with her head in the sand, so self absorbed and uninterested in her 'friends'. Even the end is just about her own wants to have her first love returned and saved for
Eric Hines
Nov 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Not badly done. Definitely heavily influenced by 1990s grad school feminism, but not fatally so. A college novel, and as usual with college novels of this type (see also The Secret History, the Rule of Four and many others), the college experience is romanticized beyond all recognition. But Hand's romanticization doesn't bury or distort (too much) the more pedestrian adolescent crises real people experience at college. Rather it heightens them and gives them a compelling context in which to play ...more
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't normally go back and write reviews of books I read years before, but upon seeing a reference to Elizabeth Hand, I realized that "Waking the Moon" is one of those books that hovers in my mind, for years afterwards. Which doesn't necessarily mean that I loved it, but it does mean it deserves a review.

The basic plot can be summarized as:
1) young lady (Sweeney Cassidy) goes to college
2) ...and discovers a new group of friends, one or two of whom (Angelica, Oliver) are especially enchanting
Jay Daze
A novel that is as messy as the Goddess it portrays.

It's the end of the world, as we know it. Patriarchy has been in the driver's seat for over 3,000 years. The Benandanti, an ancient order of dudes, have been suppressing the goddess ever since. But now the Goddess is back with a vengeance and Kate Sweeney Cassidy is in the middle of a mystic triangle between the two chosen ones who have been bred to combat the coming threat: Oliver Wilde Crawford (an eccentrically brilliant pretty boy) and
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am partial to coming of age stories involving college students and supernatural/magical professors! For this reason this book reminds me a little of Tam Lin and Memory and Dream
All three books take place in the 70s and start with the protagonist as a university freshman.
I am struck in particular by the similarities with Memory and Dream. Although De Lint's book has a different kind of magic, the fantastic element in both books is somehow inspired by Greek mythology. However the most obvious
Courtney Johnston
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
There's this quite famous New Zealand photographer, whose work moves me, physically and emotionally. She has often taken sexuality as her theme, and in one series turned her lens on men - a man ejaculating, a naked man's bum peppered with little paper cut-out cupids, a man in a fencing mask; all men who she dressed up, framed up, and presented up.

One photo in particular I love, think to be one of the sexiest and most dangerous artworks New Zealand has yet produced. It shows a woman's (at least,
H. Anne Stoj
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
So, having this book in hardcover is just a thrill. It must be one of my favorite books, though I'm not particularly sure how that happened. I'm also not sure who Martha is, the person that the book is inscribed to, but I'm glad she decided she wanted to part with it.

Waking the Moon is certainly the book that began my love affair with Hand's style nearly fifteen years ago. Part of it is her language, no doubt. The descriptions of the Divine and of other natural places remained as brilliant to me
Stephen Ormsby
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that is quite brilliantly written but leaves you thinking. In that sense, it is also hard to write a review for, as I still feel this book running around my head. I suppose that means it's a great book, which I am inclined to believe.

I finished Waking the Moon some time away and realised I had not written a review for it, so I peeked back through the book. We have goddesses that kiss butt, matriarchal and patriarchal socities, blood and an ending that does not quite
Saba Razvi
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my top five favorite books of all time. I absolutely adore this novel. And, I've enjoyed all of Elizabeth Hand's works. I'll probably update this with a fuller review at some point, but for now: this is a truly decadent, fantastical, and beautiful novel. You should read it!
Amanda Lyons
Nov 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
Just came came off too dry for me.
(edited 8/8 to replace w the version that's less of a typo-ridden hellscape - apologies for any emotional damage caused by reading that draft. the content is unchanged)

July was a misery. A global heatwave, strong earthquakes in California, fires in the American Southwest, and other signs of catastrophic climate change were all around. In DC, power outages and random violence were attributed to the miserable weather. Tourists listlessly thronged the museums while residents inched through endless
Amy Blakemore
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I had such an uneven relationship with this book. I wouldn't call it love/hate, because my feelings towards weren't necessarily that strong, but I'll try to articulate why it both irritated me while being exceptionally easy to read.

1. The writing itself is uneven. You will read the phrase "sandalwood and oranges" many, many times and you will know what every character smells like. When Hand is describing archaeology digs and spiritual rituals, her writing is specific, visual, and suspenseful.
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Juushika by: Kelly
On Sweeney's first day at the University of the Archangels and St. John the Divine, she's improbably befriended by Oliver, enigmatic and fey, and Angelica, gorgeous and strong-willed. A normal girl chosen by two remarkable individuals, she's pulled into the heart of their troubles as an otherworldy divine battle begins to brew. Waking the Moon is the sort of bold which often lapses into heavy-handed, an uneven but undeniably powerful book. Sweeney is an intentionally unlikely protagonist, an ...more
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book quite literally changed my life. I'd been initiated into Wicca when I was eighteen, but all I'd really comprehended was the "Barbie/Goddess" out of California. With this book (Which is a name of an actual Wiccan Working), Hand introduces the third, and far less known aspect of the Goddess - Not the Maiden, not the Mother, but the Crone. This is the aspect of Danu who tends the dead, and deals a deadly justice to those men who harm women.

It is very well written, even better researched.
Sep 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Elizabeth Hand, I've decided, is the kind of writer who, every time her characters are outside, describes the sky.

And they're outside a lot. And she always has such lovely descriptions. And wonderful characters. But the things she writes are so very odd, so very borderline - plots you'd find in mainstream supernatural thriller novels with characters and prose (maybe sometimes leaning towards the purpose but I like that) you'd find in literary novels - so I just don't know who I'd recommend her
Maggie K
Feb 10, 2015 rated it liked it
So, I really thought I,d like this a lot more than I did...its a great idea for a book, tye writing is there, but it somehow kind of falls flat.
None of the characters ring realy true. I remember actually wondering if maybe she put her own college friends into the story, and then had them act out the roles of the story. There was just such a maudlin flavor to it all.
And I didn't really buy the happy ending. It just seemed implausible. What was going on with the benandanti protection was obvious
Jun 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The first part of the book, involving three college friends (the rich beauty, the fey dude, and the smart girl hiding behind her glasses) is a bit reminiscent of The Secret History in its rich language and strong ties between friends - as well as messing about with things that should be left alone. But it switches up later, when the two girls grow up and take very different paths. Needless to say, one of those paths involves moon-worship and such, which is a bit messy. You'll have to read the ...more
Lisa B.
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
My Thoughts

This book was oddly addicting. Most of the time I was reading it, I was thinking - why am I reading this? Yet I could not put it down. It was one of those books where you keep reading because it is so weird and then get to the end and say - hmmmmm.

So, what does this mean? The author has an interesting writing style - very descriptive. She certainly knows how to spin a tale. I thought it was a bit too long. I’m thinking that maybe this was just not the right time for me to connect with
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I recommend this book who like their fantasy set on this planet, during modern times - and you have to be a bit cynical, too, imo. I love Hand's lyrical, lush writing, the improbably reality the story's set in, how the characters are developed and the worlds they inhabit (even if I don't want to share those worlds). The climax, imo, was overwrought & somehow clumsy, but the book dénouement was decently done, and overall, the book is definitely worth reading.
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A New York Times notable and multiple award– winning author, Elizabeth Hand has written seven novels, including the cult classic Waking the Moon, and short-story collections. She is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. She and her two children divide their time between the coast of Maine and North ...more
“If the retreat house was a trap, it was a very nice one.” 4 likes
“It wasn't exactly like I'd sold out on my life and dreams and all that other bullshit, because the truth was I'd never actually had anything to sell. It was more like I slowly froze in place, inside my little office at the museum; more like some part of me just fell asleep one day and never woke up.” 1 likes
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