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Waking the Moon

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,063 ratings  ·  206 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. ...more
Paperback, 497 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by Eos (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,063 ratings  ·  206 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 years ...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 is al ...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)
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. ...more
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. ...more
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
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 wr
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 s
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: novel, myth, fantasy, heroine
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 h
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 t
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, weird
It was my first book by Elizabeth Hand and I can say that she's the author worth keeping my eye on. Though I didn't like everything in this novel there was a lot of things that captivated me. Firstly, I think it had an amazing atmosphere of dread and danger that kept lurking from the shadows and made me sometimes feel afraid. I also liked the theme of cults and god and goddessess.

But a plot was in places too weird even for me. Also I somehow couldn't relate to characters. I didn't care about Swe
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 Ang
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,
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was the perfect mix of dark academia, mythology, anthropology, hallucinations, goddess (cults), ritualistic murder, and 90s feminism. It was a pretty wild and oh-so-whacky ride, with a few “wtf just happened”-moments.
It’s far from perfect, and I definitely liked the first two thirds more than the last, but I still really liked it! It has the cult-classic-feeling to it, and I can’t believe it was published in 1994 and I’ve only just heard of it now! I mean?!

Gimme more Elizabeth Han
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
The college parts were SO GOOD, and then the rest was so... yikes
Jun 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: urban-fantasy, 2020
I read this book during exams in my last year of school, and I guess I was stressed out and I must have skimmed it, because I was left with the impression that it was a lot better than I found it to be re-reading it now.

First, the positives: This is a very educated book with many literary and historical allusions scattered throughout - I was very impressed by the effort Hand put into researching various cults of the ancient world, aspects of Mycenaean culture, etc., and by the way she wove this
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
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! ...more
Amanda Lyons
Nov 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
Just came came off too dry for me.
Dec 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An odd, supernatural 90's story that has an unlikeable character and some pacing issues, but I enjoyed it for its unusual story.

It starts out slow but I thought it worked well because it builds the characters and the world and gives us a chance to really get into the story. I liked reading about Sweeney at university though I found it frustrating at times when she was skipping class and drinking all day; like she was really wasting her chance to be at university.

After the time skip from Sweeney
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Hand is just so damn cool. While it's a serious-ish novel, it had me laughing out loud at points with her sharp character descriptions and her caustic satire of the new age industry.

This book breaks down so many fantasy tropes around women, and reverses some of the toxic tropes often found in university stories (i.e. older male professors finding themselves by sleeping with their students). Also Oliver is totally the guy I would have been moping after at university. My only criticism
Ugh. If I had read this when it came out in the mid-90s, when I was in high school, I would probably have eaten this up in a major 90s way. Goddess cults, whimsical handsome Oliver, a drabbish girl befriended by the most mysterious and attractive people in college, dark academia...but middle-age me doesn't have very strong feelings, except for annoyance at the constant descriptions of how hot Angelica is (according to white conventional standards), and at how the story gets lost in the extremely ...more
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
(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. W
Once upon a time in college, this book was recommended as something I'd be into. It was the 90s, and we were all striding through a world so feminist that we weren't expected to become homemakers, we were taking sips of non-christian religious ideas from buddhism to wicca, and flannel and combat boots and clove cigarettes were had by all. I didn't read this book then, when I was young and forming my ideas of how the world and I fit together. 20 something years after Waking the Moon was a cult cl ...more
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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 Londo ...more

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“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.” 3 likes
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