In my last post, I talked about how much I love urban fantasy. I added a brief list of recommended books, which included Lynne Ewing’s Daughters of the Moon series. It was one of my favorites in middle school, and played a huge role in shaping what I like to write about. The series is about four, and later five, girls living in Los Angeles who are actually demigoddesses with unique powers, and must fight an ancient evil called the Atrox. Girls with supernatural powers? Check. A group bound together by fate? Check. Greek mythology? Check. It’s not a perfect series by any means, but it’s fun, and has a permanent place in my heart.
The main reason I started reading these books was because the covers were so awesome. They feature whichever character each book focuses on, looking like she’s just emerged from a tub full of glitter. Imagine my delight when I realized these covers aren’t only for show; they’re almost exact replicas of what the girls wear right before their big showdowns with the Atrox’s Followers. The Daughters live in L.A., are all involved in the arts in some way, and have access to a treasure trove of costumes and props thanks to one of their moms, a costume designer, so their outfits are always spectacular. In the first book, Goddess of the Night, Vanessa must save her best friend Catty from the clutches of the Atrox. She raids her mom’s collection and puts on a silky blue dress with matching high-heeled sandals, draws silver and blue flames and hearts on her legs with body paint, and douses her entire body in glitter. It sounds impractical and over-the-top, but it’s supposed to be. Vanessa gets the effect she was going for: “A thrill ran through her. Her reflection astonished her. She looked otherworldly, a mystical creature… eyes large, skin glowing, eyelashes longer, thicker. Everything about her was more powerful and sleek and fairy tale.”
When I read these books for the first time, they had more of an impression than I realized. A lot of media targeted at kids my age almost always had a pretty, “popular” girl who was mean and vain. Or there would be a “plain” girl who was a social outcast until someone gave her a makeover which helped her win the guy’s attention. The Daughters of the Moon showed me that you could actually draw power from dressing up. Most superheroes wear costumes to conceal their identities, for protection, or because their powers come from their costumes. The Daughters of the Moon dress up for none of these reasons. They do it just to look fabulous and kick ass, and they sure deliver.
However, as their mentor Maggie constantly stresses, it is never their clothes or the moon amulets they all wear that gives them power. The power is in them. As Vanessa puts on her sandals, she has another epiphany: “As she tied the straps, it came to her with a sudden shock. She had been preparing for battle like a medieval knight, or an ancient warrior, with ritual and ceremony.” I like that message. Armor can be an actual suit of armor, or a vibranium suit, or a silky blue dress with heels. It could be a leather jacket and combat boots, that awesome pair of pants you found at the thrift store, or maybe it’s exactly what you’re wearing right now.
If nothing else, you can’t deny it’s an effective tool for characterization!