A 2021 Locus Award Finalist!
A Lambda Literary Award Finalist
A Book Riot Must-Read Fantasy of 2020
Amazon's Best of 2020 So Far
“Fantastic, defiant, utterly brilliant.” —Ken Liu
Zen Cho returns with The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.
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With this whimsical fantasy novella, Hugo Award winner Cho (The True Queen) delivers a wuxia-tinged tale of banditry and brotherhood. After a group of bandits save Guet Imm, a young nun of the Pure Moon Order, from harassment, she joins them and tags along on their exploits. The bandits have recently come into possession of a sacred object of the Pure Moon Order, which they intend to sell, but their endeavors both to find a buyer and to steal more goods consistently go awry. When Guet Imm, whose true motivations come as a late reveal, discovers a fellow devotee of the Pure Moon Order within the bandits' ranks, both characters must reckon with and reevaluate their faith. This quirky sketch of the Tang Dynasty offers more mischief than martial arts or magic, which will disappoint readers hoping for action, but fans of found family narratives will enjoy the band-of-brothers dynamic of the bandits. This cheeky take on old-school tropes is pleasant but slight. Correction: An earlier version of this review misgendered a character.
Great novella in an interesting and refreshing setting!
“The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water” is a delightful novella by Zen Cho. It seems to be set in an alternate world version of Southeast Asia, where there is only a touch of magic, and some gunpowder. There is also political strife, jungles filled with bandits, rebels, mosquitos, and leeches.
The story begins in a tea house, when one of the bandits comes in. This brother defends the honor of a nun who is working there. This leads to her joining the band of bandits, whether they want her to or not. They travel across the war-torn land, and as they do we learn how the political strife caused by the protectorate has caused the destruction of temples and converted villagers to bandits (or independent contractors as they refer to themselves).
As the reader accompanies the characters on their journey, we learn their backstories, and how they came to be where they are. We also learn a little about the Deity known as the Pure Moon and her followers. This leads to some unexpected revelations, and the tale leads to a satisfying conclusion. Definitely a recommend novella, and an interesting and refreshing setting.