Novella Review: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of Monk & Robot
Publisher: Tordotcom (July 12, 2022)
Length: 160 pages
Another quiet read for your quiet moods, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is very much in keeping with its predecessor A Psalm for the Wild-Built, though I’d say if you’re coming to this from book one, you’ll already know what to expect. Our story picks up from when readers last saw our protagonists, Sibling Dex and Mosscap. We find the tea monk and robot traveling through the inhabited areas of Panga, hoping to gain more knowledge of village life.
I’m not sure there’s much more to add to this brief description of the synopsis, or to my review of the first book, since so many of my comments there also apply here. What this sequel offers is not so much a plot as it is an observance of our characters simply existing, but to its credit I feel as though most of their philosophical dialogue and the story’s themes are elevated to a more profound place. We’re able to skip the lengthy introductions this time, exploring more significant developments in Dex and Mosscap’s relationship. The former has become something of a mentor as the latter continues to ponder the curious lives of humans with an almost child-like awe.
Because of its lack of a clear direction, however, I would say A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is even less structured than Psalm, and if you struggled with the first book, chances are you will experience the same issues with this one. These books are meant to appeal on a personal level, and I think it’s either something that will resonate with you strongly…or not at all.
Speaking for myself, I can appreciate what these Monk and Robot novellas are attempting to do, but this slow and introspective style of storytelling can only carry my enjoyment to a certain point and not beyond. I wasn’t bored, exactly, but I can’t say I was all that mentally stimulated either, though it was not for the author’s lack of trying. I respect Becky Chambers greatly for her thoughts and ideas, and she’s always a joy to read, but I have to say she’s much better at writing stories than she is at philosophizing. Especially coming from her Wayfarers series, the books of Monk and Robot feel very different, and probably should be considered more as parables.
That said, while I thought there were several interesting nuggets of world-building here and there, I didn’t think there was anything too groundbreaking or complex to the topics our protagonists discussed, and I also said so as much about the first book as well. Ultimately these novellas are too short for any real depth, though I will say they are quite good at being comfort reads. Although it left me wanting more, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is the perfect bite-sized length for an afternoon dalliance and some food for thought, especially if you’re not feeling too committed.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Book 1)