The life of a bandit is not easy. The men of Lau Fung Cheung’s band not only have to work odd jobs for a bit of cash to keep them in rice but it seems like they can’t even walk into a town without getting caught in a brawl. Zen Cho’s brief novella, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, tells the story of what might be the gang’s most challenging job yet. Even though the novella is brief, it turned out to be a fun ride with surprising depths.
Lau Fung Cheung makes a fantastic entrance in The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water. All he wanted was something hot to drink at a coffeehouse but, when another customer accuses the waitress of hexing him, Fung Cheung decides to defend the waitress. After the inevitable fight, Fung Cheung’s second in command, Tet Sang, arrives with purses of cash to sooth hurt feelings. Tet Sang and the waitress, an ex-nun called Guet Imm, then proceed to steal the show from the devil-may-care Fung Cheung.
After the brawl and Guet Imm’s also-inevitable firing from the inn, Guet Imm tracks down the gang and refuses to leave. She offers to cook and clean for the bandits, but she mostly gets the job through sheer stubbornness. Tet Sang is very annoyed. He is so annoyed, in fact, that we have to realize that Tet Sang must have bigger reasons for wanting Guet Imm to disappear with a quickness. These reasons are slowly revealed at the same time we learn more about the job Fung Chueng’s band is working.
For such a short novella, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water contains a surprising amount of backstory. Tet Sang and Guet Imm have astonishing stories behind them—so much so that the characters argue with each other about whether it was chance or divine Providence that brought them together. Cho also adds details about an ongoing war between a militant Protectorate and a defeated old order that had me longing for more pages. I really wanted more of this story and more of its characters. I suspect other readers will, too, given how imaginative this story is. Since its scant 176 pages might be all we get of the world of The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, I have to be satisfied with what I got: nuns with strange powers, comic relief, oaths and bargains, double-crosses, gender-bending, and almost non-stop action.
I would definitely recommend this book to readers looking for a quick fantasy adventure.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.