Beautiful Wuxia Fantasy
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water
by Zen Cho
“You hexed a customer?” he roared. He smacked her on the side of the head.
“I didn’t say that, Mr Aw,” protested the waitress, rubbing her head. “I just said I didn’t deny only.”―
Zen Cho, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water
Fantastic, defiant, utterly brilliant.” —Ken Liu
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 Order of The Pure Moon Reflected in Water is a complicated story to talk about due to massive spoilers. It is also short, so the story beats are pretty precise, and if I say anything specific, it will ruin the whole plot. However, there are a few observations I can make about this captivating story.
Firstly, let’s talk about the cover; it is masterfully done. I thought it was a beautiful cover and one of the first factors in leading me to request the story to review. After reading the story, you can appreciate just how beautifully done the cover is and how well it works in concert with the plot.
Secondly, the protagonist and supporting characters are fun. Tet Sang runs a band of brothers. They are classic, morally grey independent contractors that are some times on the right side and sometimes on the wrong side. They are minding their business and witness a waitress lose her job and possibly hex a customer. This waitress, a nun in disguise, joins the band of brothers and goes on a bit of a quest. Tet Sang is a good leader with secrets of his own, the same with the nun. We know less about the other characters in the party except for the fun dialog snippets we get as they argue like a family.
Plot-wise, the story delves into quite a few critical issues. The strongest is that families can be found. This goes back to how the group argues like a family; they have that level of banter. There is a level of comfort and trust you can have with someone who is not related by blood. I found Cho’s writing on this to be very authentic and effortless. The banter betwixt the members of the group was slipped into like a comfy pair of shoes. Secondly, again no spoilers, but Cho touches on transgender identity. Some of her characters’ identities are not what we think. Once again, Cho slips these parts of the characters into the story without a lot of fanfare.
It is brilliantly done.
I loved this story and would have given it a solid 5-star rating, except I found the ending to be a bit jarring. It came out of the left-field for me, which took me out of the story. Aside from that, this is solid, wonderfully written, great characters, and cool backstories. Definitely worth checking out.
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Where to find it?
I received a copy of this from Netgalley and the Publisher in exchange for my open and honest review.
About the Author
Zen Cho is the author of a short story collection (Spirits Abroad, 2014) and two historical fantasy novels (Sorcerer to the Crown, 2015 and The True Queen, 2019). She has won the Crawford Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer, and was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Zen was born and raised in Malaysia, resides in the UK, and lives in a notional space between the two.