I do love a good found family story and a nice novella to cleanse the reading palette from time to time. I mean when it has a great cover as well, it’s hard not to want to read. Even when it’s pitched to you as; ‘A bandit walks into a coffee shop and meets a nun. Mayhem ensues.’, why would you not want to read it?
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.
Regardless of any critical rating or review, this was fun. I did enjoy the story and the character banter. I personally have no connection or awareness of wuxia culture, movies especially, which is absolutely shameful. There is a sense of the melodramatic here all the way through the book and it’s used in a way that is meant to entertain the reader. Cho knows how to keep someone engaged with a shorter work like a novella.
The world building failed a little on me and I think, along with my other critiques this is down to the length working against the book. There is hints of an entire Peninsula and a “secret war” at play behind the scenes. While we get a few more details of the Order of the Pure Moon as the story carries on, I feel like all these religious orders that are mentioned in passing would benefit from a bit more detail. The world in general felt very limited to our band of characters but it has so much potential if Cho ever came back to it.
The characters really stood out to me in the story with one small let down that I’ll get to. The opening of the story with a brawl in a coffee house between a bandit and a petulant customer and a nun getting stuck in the middle is great fun. Guet Imm, the titular nun, was a surprise favourite. She has this uncanny ability to confuse both me and the characters in the story with just how resourceful she could really be. Nun or no, she has secrets The second in command to the gang of bandits, Tet Sang, is our main point of view here and he carries his own secrets relating to the Order of the Pure Moon.
Now where these characters fall down for me is the found family aspect of the story. I love this trope a lot. I don’t know a lot of people who don’t to be honest. It’s a very reassuring thing to see becoming more common in fiction since this is the reality for many people. However, to have this work in a book I find there needs to be very well planned writing and a hell of a lot of development of characters that this book just didn’t allow a lot of room for. There is some excellent dialogue, incredible charm but that just wasn’t enough to have me root for this family of misfits.
The plot was the real fall down for me . The pacing is fairly spotty with some great action scenes and a genuinely tender reveal that did bring this story to a higher rating for me in the ned. What the story ends with though is so left of centre I had to put the Kindle down and pause before I read it again to finish. The writing itself is wonderful with moving moments of are for these characters interwoven with some great action but ultimately how it was plotted out killed the potential for me.
Honestly l would still recommend this since Cho has amazing skill with words. I know I tried Sorcerer to the Crown back about 4 years ago and never finished it so I think I’ll reread that. Have you read this? Are you a Zen Cho fan? Tell me all below. Thanks for checking in folks, happy reading!