Convincing characters, original use of old horror themes, sharp social commentary and the smooth integration of research makes Elizabeth Hand's "Waking the Moon" a novel worth any reader's time. Hand makes the characters practically live and breathe on the page; readers will relate to main character Sweeney's longing for the "Beautiful Ones," and cheer on her unlikely May-December romance with Dylan. Hand avoids making anyone in the novel the "bad guy," as so many horror novels do. Even as the reader is terrified of Angelica, they can empathize with her sadness over killing those she loves. Also, Hand rises above the cliched horror plot of friends reunited to confront an evil from their past, by making each friend unique. The novel enthralls as well as educates the reader. It's well-researched, and Hand skillfully mixes this information in along with the plot. Lastly, with Angelica's cult, Hand comments on today's society and women's role in it, and takes today's "goddess" movements one horrifying step further. A wonderful novel in every way.