I’m excited to be bringing you a review of another Novella – anyone else feel as though this format is on the rise? – and none other than Zen Cho’s The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water which was very firmly on my ‘hope to read in 2020’ list!
Zen Cho returns with 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.
I have been reading a larger number of novellas lately, but I wouldn’t say I’ve read enough to be able to quite put a finger on why some things really work for me and others…don’t. Sadly this was in the latter camp.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the writing in this is beautiful, and the characterisation was definitely there – I really enjoyed Guet Imm as a character and I’d love a longer piece from her perspective.
But I didn’t quite feel there was enough meat to this story – and that might just be my own reading of it – for me to truly fall in love with it. That’s not to say I wanted this to be a full novel, I’m a big fan of the way the novella format means you can dive straight into the story – but there was some narrative element that just stopped me from fully falling through the pages of this book.
I think I wanted a deeper relationship/exploration of relationship building between these characters, I liked that there is an amount of trust built (and lost) across the pages but I feel as though there could have been more done.
I’m wondering if a re-read of this, knowing how the story goes, would yield more than a first reading – and I’ll definitely be keeping this on my ‘revisit at some point’ list. But this is similar to how I felt about Sorcerer to the Crown – which felt similarly lackluster – while I loved The True Queen. So perhaps Zen Cho, for me, is just one of those authors where I like some of their books and not others?
Novellas are always going to be fairly subjective, personal taste things – for me this didn’t quite hit the mark. I think there are some interesting elements and the overall character development and story is good – but I needed just a little more bite to the book for me to really love this.
(worth saying the usual ‘I am a white lady so odds are I missed a fair amount of the nuance in this story please seek out own voices reviews’ here)
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water is out June 23rd!
What say you? What are some of your favourite novellas? Let me know in the comments below!