Review: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, by Zen Cho

I feel like I’m reading half a dozen books at once at the moment (probably because I am!) and I needed a break, so 2 days ago I went and put on this quick audiobook, to give me a sense of accomplishment at finishing something. I had tried it before but I was sick at the time and just uh, fell asleep on it. (Which isn’t a sign of it being bad, I just… do that, with audiobooks.) This time though it kept me awake instead, and I read it all in one evening!

I need a high quality poster of this cover art, it’s so neat! – Cover art by Sija Hong

The Story

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.

The Review (with some spoilers)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I did not really know what I was walking into with this book. I’d heard a lot of good things, and the cover is certainly gorgeous. I’ve also got Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, but I never really got into it because I started it mid-pandemic last year and it wasn’t the right time. I did love what I read of it though, so I wanted to give her another try. A short audiobook felt like the perfect thing for that.

The story is funny, but also has hidden depths, in a world where the characters are struggling to maintain their heritage and to find their own place and identity in the world. I really liked Guet Imm in particular, she knows how to stand her ground even in the face of misogyny, and she clearly has hidden depths. I wouldn’t mind reading more short stories/novellas about her.

The other interesting character to me was really Tet Sang, who used to be a nun and is now… well, it’s unclear. Probably a trans man, or questioning his identity at any rate. Some of the story revolves around his past, and another character recognizing him… which includes some uncomfortable conversations and deadnaming. I personally thought it was written well, but I’m cis so it’s not really for me to judge. I did like Tet Sang and how he took some time to get to trust Guet Imm. It made for interesting dynamics even between allies.

The rest of the cast were really background for these two’s interactions, I mean it’s a 3h audiobook so you can’t really get to know everyone. But I enjoyed the variety of characters, especially the one religious man who learns to read with the adventures of Baby God. It was a bit of levity in the middle of everything

There was a bit of surprise!romance at the end, I guess? I did not see it coming at all and I don’t know what to think of. But overall I was happy with how it unfolded and the ending. It was a good few hours of fun and that’s all I was looking for if I’m being honest, but I liked that it came with more depth than the first chapter had me expecting.

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | or listen to it on Scribd (affiliate link)

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