A Pale Moon Reverie, Vol. 1

By Kuji Furumiya and Teruko Arai. Released in Japan as “Tsuki no Shirosa o Shirite Madoromu” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Jason Li.

This is definitely one of those series where you can sell it to others by simply saying who wrote it. For the right reader, “from the same author as Unnamed Memory” is quite the draw, and this series has a lot of the same strengths that made Unnamed Memory such a compelling work. Most notably that it feels like a “normal” fantasy work, rather than one filtered through Japanese light novels and webnovels. It’s refreshing these days to read books without stats, adventurer’s guilds, and the rest. This series is creating its own world, thank you very much, and the world is quite compelling. The two leads will also seem very familiar to those who’ve read Unnamed Memory, though they both lack the experience and maturity of Oscar and Tinasha. And, of course, there’s also the prose, which is excellent (and well translated). This is a book to curl up in a chair and take your time reading (and you’ll have to, it’s a long one).

Xixu is a shadeslayer, trained to seek out shades (basically evil ghosts) and destroy them. He’s very good at his job, but is overly serious and dour. He’s sent by the king (at the behest of the king’s seer) to Irede, a legendary city devoted to wine, women and song… literally. While there, he’s introduced to Sarida, the proprietress of the Pale Moon, a courtesan house with very strict rules – the courtesans pick their customers, not the other way around. Sari is only sixteen, and (as it turns out) has not yet chosen any customers, but she has other things that concern her, mainly that she has supernatural powers that can aide shadeslayers in binding the shades to make them easier to get rid of. As the book goes on, Xixu and Sari find themselves growing far closer to each other than they’d expected.

As with Unnamed Memory, this is basically an omnibus of two volumes that could have easily sold as normal 200-page books, but the author seems to like doorstoppers. Xixu is a good male lead, being dedicated and humorless but also caring and perceptive. Sari is more complicated, partly due to reasons I won’t spoil, but she’s also the one who tends to get in trouble a lot – she’s not quite a damsel in distress, don’t get me wrong, but when the climax of the book is about to happen you will find her at the center being restrained by the bad guys. As for the rest of the cast, I was a bit disappointed that the traitor in the first book was the obvious choice, though at least there was some attempt to throw us off the trail for a bit. I also very much like the idea of a courtesan house where the first rule is consent. But mostly I loved the worldbuilding and the writing. It’s the reason to read this.

This came from a webnovel, which is finished online, but we all know that doesn’t necessarily mean anything to publishers. Still, I hope it does well for Drecom, as I love this author and want to read more of this odd but endearing couple.

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