Moonstorm / Yoon Ha Lee / Book Review


Hwa Young wasn't always an imperial student. Once, she had a different name, a different family--a different way of life. But ten years ago, imperial forces destroyed the rebel clanner moon where she grew up. She's been hiding her true identity ever since.

Living under the Empress's rule isn't as bad as the Hwa Young was led to believe as a child. Here, she is safe. She's had a chance at education, at hopes and dreams and aspirations. And here, she lives under the promise given to her when she was pulled from the debris field of her former home: the Empress cares for all of her children. Hwa Young doesn't doubt that.

But when a clanner attack leaves Hwa Young and her imperial classmates planetless, Hwa Young finds herself thrust into a military life earlier than she planned (earlier, too, than she thought possible). And as much as she's ready to take up her position in the Empress's military, she's starting to learn that not everybody is as safe as she was led to believe.



What an upsetting read. I really wanted to like this. I've been craving some good sci-fi. And while this book definitely has the bones to set up something amazing, the execution leaves it far from satisfactory. I just felt deflated by the end.


Space Invaders The one good thing about this book is that it is well and truly sci-fi. If you're on the lookout for epic space battles, Yoon Ha Lee definitely delivers on that front. And in a world with a definite lack of new science fiction, I really appreciate that.

Messy Loyalty I really appreciate, too, the layers of complexity added by Hwa Young's messy identity. She's a clanner at heart. That's what she was raised to be. That's where her first loyalty can be found, but... She hasn't been a clanner in years. She was raised by the Empire to be a good and loyal soldier, and as much as she misses the family that was taken from her, she isn't unhappy in her new life. In fact, she wants to rise among the ranks, to prove herself in this new identity. And that sort of underlying tension, a clashing of who she was and who she wants to be, adds an essential element to this plot that would otherwise have been much more generic.

Good Ideas Even though the ultimate execution here fell short for me, I do think some of the sci-fi elements are really cool ideas. I love the Empire's colony ships, ready and able to transform from space vessel to earthbound housing unit as quickly as possible. Of course a colonial empire would have nailed a deconstructive sort of technology like this. This and other elements really do come alive throughout the book, and I can appreciate that, at least: the elements here, the science and tech of it all, are really very cool.


I'm all for experimenting with neo pronouns. I think we need to test them out in fiction, after all, to figure out how they can and do work in language (or, conversely, how they don't work, given whatever scenario). So I appreciate Yoon Ha Lee's effort here to include neo pronouns in the worldbuilding, but... it didn't quite work for me. They're so abundant, first of all, that this representation felt a little over-represented. And sometimes the utilization felt grammatically inconsistent. I had to stumble over passages where the pronouns didn't actually make sense, and that's never a good thing. Of course, I read an uncorrected ARC, so things may change before final publication. I can only hope a layer of polish makes it to the page. In my ARC, it was a little difficult to read. Neo Trickery

This book isn't very long. Which isn't a problem in and of itself. But with the amount of narrative repetition that goes on here, it really felt excruciatingly short. There's a certain amount of trust authors and editors have to lend readers, and that trust was not extended here. I should be able to remember what happened in the first chapter well enough that I don't need a reminder in, you know, Chapter 2. In such a short novel, the rehashing of events was just too much. I know readers can get lost, but save that recollecting for the end of your epic tome, not chapter after chapter after chapter in your short sci-fi piece. Respect your readers more than that. They don't need their hands held. Repetition

With the length (and the repetition), this book really was too short for its own good. There just wasn't enough time for these characters to develop, to bond, to grow. I just didn't get to spend enough time with Hwa Young to really care about her. Which is super unfortunate, considering some of the major plot points at the climax of this book depend on readers actually caring about the main character(s). Because I didn't care--because I wasn't invested enough--this whole climax felt a little boring, to be honest. There wasn't enough history. There wasn't enough groundwork. I just couldn't be bothered to care. Payoff Where?



Fans of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game will like the subtle machinations of these epic space battles. Those who enjoyed the science-fantasy blend found in N.E. Davenport's The Blood Trials will like this world of uncertain gravity and vitally-necessary imperial loyalty.


Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date: June 4, 2024
Series: Lancers
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. Using neo pronouns can cause a lot of confusion if not done well. I'm sorry this whole story didn't work better. It could have been so good.

  2. Quick reads tend to have that problem, not enough time to really get to know the characters.

  3. even though you gave 3/5 score, I'll find this book.... interesting.
    thank you for sharing

  4. Ouch! Sorry this was disappointing. Seemed like a good concept. At least it was on the shorter side so you didn't spend too much time on it.

  5. I’m sorry that this one was disappointing for you. I’m not a fan of the genre so I’ll definitely be giving it a pass.

  6. Hopefully they do polish it up a bit. And the repetiton... yeah. Trust the readers. Sorry this was disappointing. Sounds like it has definite potential.

  7. Over representation just feels like they're sticking it in there to make a statement. Sorry to hear there was so much repetition, too. That would get old quick for me, too!

  8. Great review ER! It's too bad this one was a let down, I really dislike books that are repetitive too. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts!

  9. Great review but sorry to hear it was a bit of a disappointing read! The premise did sound really good, but the repetitiveness would bother me too and it's just a pity when a book fails to make you care about the characters.

  10. No, booo. And I was all epic space battles?!?

  11. Oh wow, 3/10 is so scary! I totally get what you mean about repetitive narration. That's a HUGE deal for me and really takes me away from the story. It feels so lazy to me. :( Too bad bc I was looking forward to this!

  12. It's so disappointing when a book has all the potential but just doesn't deliver. I love the idea of epic space battles and complex characters like Hwa Young, but the execution really makes or breaks it.


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