The way that Zen Cho's new novella The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water began was a major feint. It seemed like it was going to lean into an action-oriented saga of black magic and banditry, bounty hunting and showdowns. Instead, it throws a massive curveball and tells a powerful story of identity and how it evolves across different people, customs, and lands. An underlying theme I took away is discovering your true self even though circumstances around you are in a constant state of change.
Cho deftly weaves elegant prose, quite a few eyebrow-raising moments, and many thought-provoking themes throughout this story of a nun who joins a group of roving bandits who are much more than they seem. The nun has been in solitary seclusion for over a decade, and her earnestness is akin to a newborn when she emerges into this new, 'silent war'-torn era. She forms fragile bonds with the bandit group -- some more delicate than others -- that threaten to shatter as histories and intentions come to light. What follows is a beautiful and tragic sequence of events that extinguishes long-held beliefs while kindling new fires of hope.
Vague enough for you? I realize I sound a bit like a movie trailer, but since I hate spoiling anything of importance in a review, just take my word for it and go into this story blind. The most you'll miss is an afternoon, but there's some wonderful perspective to gain, not to mention a marvelously talented author you could start adding to your future book searches.
Review by Adam Weller
8/10 from 1 reviews
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