Asian fantasy novella with queer bandits, faith, and a world on the verge of war.
Official synopsis: 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.
I took more than two weeks to read this but it was a journey. I don’t know what I had expected because I don’t read very many novellas and Asian representation in fantasy always impresses me so I didn’t think much before diving into this. Needless to say, I did really like it.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water is a novella that reflects the found family trope in a wuxia-inspired fantasy plot by bringing together a group of bandits and a nun while they journey through a war-torn world that isn’t just about violence but also about it. Not only does it raise the tension and complexity of striking underground deals or saving themselves from the law and blunders but also the revelations packed in conversations around identity, spirituality, and purpose.
With a diverse set of POC and queer characters, and a Malaysian-Chinese inspired world, it’s a story that holds mysteries stemming from morally grey personalities yet more clarity in terms of respect for gender-queer identities and religious notions. The witty banter and humorous dialogues enhance the reading experience even if the action promised is not fully delivered. For all those who love quick diverse reads that clubs together excellent topics of discussion with an interesting plot, this one is for you. [not an ownvoices review]
Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho
An adult Asian woman finding love while climbing success
Official synopsis: At thirty-three, Andrea Tang is living the dream: she has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore’s hottest clubs and restaurants. All she has to do is make partner at her law firm and she will have achieved everything she (and her mother) has ever worked for. So what if she’s poised to be the last unmarried member of her generation of the Tang clan? She doesn’t need a man to feel fulfilled, no matter what her meddling relatives have to say about it.
But for a dutiful Chinese-Malaysian daughter, the weight of familial expectations is hard to ignore. And so are the men life keeps throwing in Andrea’s path. Read more.
Last Tang Standing clubs the typical yet prevalent expectations of an Asian family, especially parents, around the success & settlement of a young (but gradually ageing) woman and the pressure that a woman of thirty-four inevitably finds on herself, even enforced by herself at times, to find the perfect partner & live the best romantic life.
Malaysian born-and-raised Andrea Tang is a successful lawyer and has broken up with a boyfriend who had been tagged as an approved can-be-a-husband by the Asian family. So now, living and working in Singapore, she’s slightly desperate—influenced by the relatives as well as the twenties that are slowly growing more and more distant in the past—to find an eligible bachelor.
Featuring a blooming workplace romance, starring a handsome Indian man
yes, yes, my own interests are being projected through this appreciation, and the constant depictions of accurate Asian assumptions through family & friends greatly weave a story full of humour and happiness that can delight anyone who is looking for an fun adult romance that adorns multiracial characters and representation. [not an ownvoices review]
The Royal Abduls by Ramiza Shamoun Koya
A Muslim Indian-American family struggles post 9/11
Official synopsis: Ramiza Shamoun Koya reveals the devastating cost of anti-Muslim sentiment in The Royal Abduls, her debut novel about an Indian-American family. Evolutionary biologist Amina Abdul accepts a post-doc in Washington, DC, choosing her career studying hybrid zones over a faltering West Coast romance. Her brother and sister-in-law welcome her to the city, but their marriage is crumbling, and they soon rely on her to keep their son company. Omar, hungry to understand his cultural roots, fakes an Indian accent, invents a royal past, and peppers his aunt with questions about their cultural heritage. When he brings an ornamental knife to school, his expulsion triggers a downward spiral for his family, even as Amina struggles to find her own place in an America now at war with people who look like her. With The Royal Abduls, Ramiza Koya ignites the canon of post-9/11 literature with a deft portrait of second-generation American identity.
This ownvoices realistic fiction by a Muslim Indian-American woman easily bashes racial and religious stereotypes while focusing on the hard-hitting and important themes of discrimination, secularism, psychological impact of divorces on children, alcoholism, and finding one’s identity when being expected to dedicate one’s life for relationships. Easily recommendable! [ownvoices only as an Indian; not for the other reps.]
The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang
An East-Asian inspired world and immersive writing.
Official synopsis: Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?
Started and finished it in a day. The world didn’t intrigue me much but I absolutely loved how the story focused on gender-queerness and finding one’s individuality in the midst of political intrigue, twin separation, emotional backdrop, and a tech-fantasy world. Recommended! [not an ownvoices review]
Received a digital review copy of the first three books from Netgalley but that doesn’t influence my opinion at all.
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