Upon waking up one morning, Wen Yu is surprised to find a note asking him to return the song thrush given into his care while the owner was sick. The only problem is that Wen Yu was never given a song thrush.
Though he has no time for distractions from his studies for the palace examination, Wen Yu goes in search of the unknown Liu Yi who left him the note. What he finds is a beautiful imperial eunuch, a talking tortoise, and a collection of mysterious moon poems that force Wen Yu to question what path in life he is truly meant to be walking.
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Overall Rating: 7/10 stars
Matt’s Review: 4/5 Stars
I will start my review with a blanket admission: I know literally nothing about Chinese history or culture. In this regard, I am 100% ignorant and simply can’t, and won’t, comment on those aspects of this story.
So. Onto what I can comment on.
Song of the Spring Moon Waning is a fantasy love story clearly based on Ancient China. It starts with a prologue of a romance between two mystical beings, that then has consequences for the human would-be lovers we meet in the story itself.
I’m a fan of Ottoman’s work, and a large part of that is the writing style. This feels like a fantasy. The tone is almost musical. It’s slow and soft, and lends itself very well to the slow-burn romance and the for once very capturing lack of detail. It doesn’t really matter what’s going around them, or who they are outside of this very intimate little love story. It only matters what is happening in this exact moment, and in my opinion, it takes enormous skill to pull that off, which the author by and large does here.
As usual for Ottoman, the trans rep is casual, matter of fact, and gorgeous. I love this kind of rep. Inescapable, but shy and naturally secretive. It emerges very organically–the reader knows before the reveal, but there is no huge reveal to the readers themselves.
The only drawbacks for me were that the love scenes didn’t fit with the rest of the tone and I did find myself skimming them quite a bit, which is a shame. And the ending is one I did see coming, and from a way off. You know what Wen Yu is going to do and which path he’s going to choose, so the last few pages did feel to me a little like they were dragging it out a bit too much. Yet for all what we did get was dragged out, I felt like we were missing a lot too. I’d like to know the solution! I want to know if Liu Yi recovers and if the ancient love story is resolved too! So yes, somehow the ending was both missing and dragged out, which is what ultimately stopped me from awarding five stars.
A sweet, slow-burn read with gentle rep that neatly avoids the usual gender-role based pitfalls of historical-type fantasies. Recommended!
Maria’s Review: 3/5 Stars
Reviewer admission up front: I’m very clueless about Chinese culture and history. I’m in no way qualified and don’t want to comment on those aspects of the story.
I’m not sure if that was part of why I had a hard time getting into this story, or if I was just struggling with the writing style this time. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Ottoman’s work and also of fairytales and mystical stories.
But somehow the magic didn’t happen for me until very late into this story. While the writing was beautiful and lyrical, skilful and gorgeous in the way it says so much with few words, it just didn’t quite ‘click‘ with me in the beginning.
I did love Wen Yu and Liu Yi as characters and the how the mythological and magical parts flowed in the narrative so effortlessly and naturally. The sex scenes surprised me a bit – they came so unexpected and admittedly pulled me out of flow of the story a bit – but they were beautiful nonetheless.
So overall this was a good read, I just wasn’t as blown away and enraptured as I had hoped I would be.