It is my very sincere pleasure today to be reviewing a creative work by a member of our Okazu family! I was sent a copy as a gift, but there’s some very excellent elements here that I wanted to share with you.
Primarily set on Earth’s Moon, with a background of thriving solar system-wide colonization, Flowers of Luna, written by Jennifer Linsky, is a romance novel set in this futuristic setting.
Ran Gray is the daughter of two famous mothers who, when she was an small child, heroically fought pirates who were attacking their mining ship, defeated them and released the pirates’ captives from slavery. As a result, Ran’s name comes with a burden of fame that she’s not in hate with, but would kind of like to get out from under. Ran comes to Sankt Vladimir University on the Moon, to study clothing design. In her first minute there, she is challenged to a duel.
Ran is not above cashing in on the duel, and she and her challenger end up going out. Which effectively puts an end to the plot of the story, well at the beginning of the book. From this point on, it switches from rollicking adventure tale to slice-of-life josei romance, complete with misunderstandings and refusals to just sit down and talk. The third time Ran was sulking about something she could have just asked about or accepted that she did not know, I found myself growing weary of her.
I had one issue with the novel that was completely unrelated to any strengths or weakness of the writing. The story centers fashion, especially the design and creation of clothing, something about which I have absolutely no interest whatsoever. And the characters’ fascination with lingerie is not mine. I found the discussion of clothing (which is a major part of the story,) interminable. Should you enjoy details of cosplay, clothing or lack thereof, I happily recommend this book to you. As I say, this is not a ding against the book, just against this reader. It was all integrated nicely, with no awkward flow – clothing design is as much of who Ran is, as her name.
Which brings me to my one one genuine criticism of the writing. I have, in my life, read any number of books in which an author integrates something they like or somewhere they live and I am 100% okay with it , unless it’s jarring to me as a reader. Two decades ago, I read Nicola Griffith’s The Blue Place, and was vaguely irritated by the section in which she detailed Taijiquan – not because it was inaccurate, but it literally stopped the story so the author could tell us what she knew. It was only peripherally about building the character. I am comfortable with an author inserting an interest of their own, but it must be done judiciously. When whole passages are given over to the author’s interest, as they are in A Discovery of Witches it does not benefit the reader. In this example, Deborah Harkness runs a wine blog and does yoga, so dozens of pages are turned over to discussion of wine and yoga that does not further the plot, nor does it truly develop the characters beyond fictitious extensions of the author. Which is to say, I feel at the end of this novel that I know a great deal about Jennifer Linksky, but not nearly enough about Ran Gray. It happens all the time, but should be avoided.
On the other hand, the world building in Flowers of Luna is excellent. I could instantly picture the university, its surrounding city, the larger economic system it was part of and the commerce channels. The politics of the system are relatively inapplicable, so we can forgive their absence. As I write this review, I am reminded that one of the things I liked best about the story was the author’s ability to create a world of space-faring travel without needing to use the word “space” as a descriptor for every third noun. The technological background noise is also well thought out, without too much depth. We can understand that matter is recycled as needed. We don’t need the details here. It’s enough to see that it is. And Ran’s world is filled with other people, not just the one woman she’s fallen for. She has friends, erstwhile roommates, team members, family, etc. This world is layered and real-feeling.
And lastly, the story is very LGTBQ-friendly. Sexual and gender minorities move through the populace in a wholly natural way. Diversity is homogeneous in this future, which includes body-modification on a genetic level. ( I *am* into body-modification, so that interested me. Readers are so fickle. ^_^)
Overall – 7
Flowers of Luna is available in paperback and on Kindle. I whole-heartedly suggest it for a bit of entertaining Yuri-ish reading.
Many thanks to Jennifer for the copy and many wishes for a successful writing career!