The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho — New Review, Bookclub Edition

Cover: bookshop.org

In addition to being a book club book, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water was recommended on a list of queer heist novels. I’m glad I read it for book club, and not as a fan of heists, because it’s really not what I want from that description. There are bandits, yes, and (debatably) stolen treasure and negotiations, but little of this is the result of forethought or organisation.

If the first bandit was a porcelain vase, this one was an everyday clay vessel, suitable for holding water or budu or rice wine, as the occasion demanded.

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

Putting aside heist-y expectations, Zen Cho’s world-building is lovely. The religious Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water has a great name, and the details about the goddess and her followers are spread through the story, building up a background which feels significant and convincing. Without giving anything away, the religion-specific compliments and treasures were a really nice touch.

Zen Cho’s pacing worked well, until the very end, which felt a little abrupt. While there had been hints about the relationships between different characters, these didn’t really have enough time to build before they were suddenly impacting the plot in surprisingly big ways. To a reader used to enjoying novellas, this might not be a problem, but in comparison to a full-length novel it felt somewhat light. While the prose of The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water didn’t stand out, it was pleasant enough, and a longer novel would be enjoyable.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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