Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Moonstorm by Yoon Ha Lee: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Moonstorm by Yoon Ha Lee

Moonstorm starts a new Lancers YA sci-fi series by Yoon Ha Lee. It’s set in New Joseon, an empire inspired by the Korean past. It’s a collection of moons and artificial planets orbiting together in Moonstorm, what seems to be a vast asteroid field of sorts filled with ether where people can survive for a moment, instead of void. The empire is held together by gravity that is created by peoples’ adherence to rituals and respect for the empress.

But Moonstorm has rogue moons and planetoids in random orbits too. They belong to clanners who hold their gravity with different rituals and don’t bow to the empress. The two different gravities don’t mix and the two sides are at constant war.

Hwa Young is ten when her clanner moon is destroyed by the empire. As the sole survivor, she’s taken to New Joseon and given an education as the ward of the empress. She’s made a conscious decision to become a good citizen of the empire and hide her clanner past, because she wants to become a lancer in the empire’s military, a pilot of huge mechas that operate in space.

At sixteen, she’s unexpectedly given a chance to enter the lancer program. And that, inevitably, leads to her going to a battle against the clanners. It’s all very abstract to her, until it turns out that it’s her former home she’ll be attacking against.

The war isn’t going as well for the empire as the news propaganda gives to understand. Hwa Young is forced to consider the possibility that the empire isn’t entirely right. And it turns out, there’s such thing as too much devotion.

This is a great start to a series. Lee has once again created a world that is unique and interesting, and which has an integral role in the story instead of being a mere prop, although the Korean elements could’ve been brought out more clearly. The mechas with their sentience are more interesting than usually too.

Hwa Young is a fairly typical YA heroine, a headstrong loner who makes emotional decisions at wrong moments. There’s no romance; a good decision, although she seems to be eyeing someone in that light. I hope it doesn’t lead anywhere, as I didn’t really feel the pairing. Side characters were interesting with lives of their own.

The ending leaves Hwa Young in a completely new place in the world. It’ll be interesting to see where that’ll lead.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

p.s Its seldom that a book has two such vastly different cover images. I chose the YA version that brings out the Asian characteristics of the story. The other is more hard-core sci-fi with completely different vibes:


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