Nebula-winner. Reading this book the setup suggested parallels to two other books, which made this one appear quite unfavorable by contrast. The first was Kit Whitfield's In Great Waters, with the mutual focus on a sapient underwater species in a historical backdrop. However where Whitfield created a complex and interesting species whose presence changed the whole pattern of history, McIntyre makes an idealized perfect sea-person, using it's almost saintly attitudes as a way to shine unfavorable light on humanity. The other book I was reminded of was McIntyre's Hugo-winning Snakedance, with its compelling exploration of gender, femininity, and its restriction. Here, that takes a far more basic approach, outlining ways the France of Louis XIV restricted women and made for an exploitative environment. The point is well served but ultimately the analysis is pretty obvious, and there's not enough character complexity to support a more ambitious reading. Beyond the parallels The Moon and the Sun is ultimately a weak book because it feels too slow. It's padded, the plot spends too long bouncing off the obvious potential outcomes and the level of intrigue produced in the story is ultimately too little spread over too long. This book definitely shouldn't have won any major awards.
Worse than: The Orphan’s Tale by Cathereynne Valente
Better than: Whre Late the Sweet Bird Sang by Kate Wilhelm