A Review of Becky Chambers’ “A Prayer for the Crown-Shy”
Monk and Robot, Book 2
The following is not an original thought and I’m plagiarizing something I saw on Goodreads, but it holds true and is worth repeating: Becky Chambers’ A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is one of those books that when the Advance Readers Copy lands in your inbox, you drop everything and immediately read it for review purposes, forgetting that we’re still three-ish months away from its release date and there are other books I have on my plate that are coming up sooner than that. I hope the publisher isn’t mad at me for throwing my hat in the ring so soon, but the previous book by Chambers called A Psalm for the Wild-Built was so good and so life-affirming that I wanted to get my mitts on this sequel as soon as possible. I don’t think, for me, there was another book coming out in 2022 that I was so in expectation of. A Psalm for the Wild-Built was such a perfect pandemic novel (written before the pandemic ironically) that it was like getting a warm hug and a good cup of tea as you read it. Does A Prayer for the Crown-Shy live up to the hype?
Before we get to that, a recap. The first book was about the journeys of a non-binary tea monk (or a monk who serves tea and listens to people’s problems) named Sibling Dex and a robot they encounter in their journeys named Mosscap who has returned to the world of humans after all robots went into self-exile a few centuries before. Mosscap has come back to answer the question, what do humans need? By turns tender and philosophical, A Psalm for the Wild-Built was a book that was gentle and soothing, and just the type of novella that was so in tune with the times that it wound up on a Most Influential Science Fiction Books of All-Time list only months after it was published. To that end, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy picks up where A Psalm for the Wild-Built ended, with Dex and Mosscap returning to civilization on the moon of Panga and becoming something of celebrities in the process. Whereas with A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Dex was the student and Mosscap was the teacher, those roles get reversed here as Dex introduces Mosscap to elements of human culture.
Roughly of the same novella-like length as A Psalm for the Wild-Built, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy probably won’t be named the feel-good book of 2022 in a way that the first book in the series was named a year prior (especially by me). It’s a tad bit darker, as Mosscap begins to confront its mortality when a piece of it malfunctions during the events of this book. It’s also a bit frustrating because Dex isn’t as patient as Mosscap, so that means they often get flummoxed explaining things to Mosscap, which doesn’t do too much for the touchy-feels. Mosscap, too, comes off as a little bit needier in this book, which can be a bit of an annoyance because it seemed to be so wise in the first book. However, while A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is a notch below the previous book, it is still a commanding read. When Dex and Mosscap visit Dex’s family, the scene is so touching and heartfelt that it approaches and perhaps exceeds the quality of writing found in A Psalm for the Wild-Built. There are tender moments scattered here and there throughout the read, but this book has none of Dex’s wisdom offering tea monk services (they’re more of a guide in this novella), and the towns they visit are crowded with fans and onlookers, thus not offering the kind of solitude that A Psalm for the Wild-Built brought to readers by being set in the forests and mountains.
Still, I would heartily recommend A Prayer for the Crown-Shy to fans of A Psalm for the Wild-Built, with the caveat that they should expect something different in this outing. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is maybe less of a continuation in feel, and more of one that explores the flip side of the relationship between Dex and Mosscap. If you’ve read A Psalm for the Wild-Built, you’ll already know that Chambers uses the pronoun “they” for Dex, and this comes off as less intrusive and confusing in this book (part of a lot of readers’ complaints about the first novella was that they weren’t always sure if “they” was referring to just Dex or Dex and other people in scenes with two or more folks — or a robot). This is presumably because you’ll be used to it by now, and perhaps Chambers heard the complaints and has gotten a little clearer in her writing. All in all, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is a more unique, but still dazzling novella that only slightly disappoints. However, the door is left open for another sequel, so perhaps this is all part of a proposed trilogy. (And, if so, it’ll be interesting to see where Chambers will go from here.) The ending is particularly poignant, and you’ll probably feel sad when you close this quick read for good — which is an entirely alternate feeling that one might have had with the previous novella. I suppose this is just another way of saying that A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is a companion book about two companions, and it has an alternate tone. Perhaps this is a good thing because A Psalm for the Wild-Built was a lot to live up to and just turning in a carbon copy would have diminished that book. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy mostly lives up to the hype, and you should definitely check it out if you’re already read the first book in the Monk and Robot series. It’s a good follow-up, and that’s all we can ask for in a sequel.
Becky Chambers’ A Prayer for the Crown-Shy will be published by Tor.com on July 12, 2022.
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You may also be interested in the following review: Becky Chambers’ A Psalm for the Wild-Built.
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