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

8/10 A powerful story of identity and how it evolves across different people, customs, and lands.

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.

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