Delacorte. (Moonstorm: Bk. 1). Jun. 2024. 352p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593488331.
Gr 7 Up–Hwa Young’s first experience with Imperial lancers comes when they attack her clan on a rebel moon, destroying her home and rescuing her from the fallout. Six years later, Hwa Young is a student in a New Joseon military academy striving to become a lancer pilot, desperate to never be powerless again. Lancers are giant robots in the shape of Old Joseon’s armored warriors, vital tools to enforce the Empress’s will, and the strongest weapons in her arsenal. Hwa Young’s rebel past makes it important she remains in step with everyone as she strives to be top of her class, because conformity is highly valued by the empire. Her fears and insecurities are a driving force in her character arc, especially when she ends up stranded with her classmates—who might be her allies but are definitely not her friends. The tension between Hwa Young’s clanner childhood and her loyalty to the Empire doesn’t feel sincere, since readers never truly doubt which side will win out. Lee’s concise prose explores themes of loyalty and colonialism, while always pushing the narrative forward. The story would have benefited from more time spent exploring the world and its inhabitants, as the propulsive plot keeps readers from becoming attached to the characters and their stakes. It features a Korean cast, with multiple nonbinary secondary characters.
VERDICT Hand to readers who are too young for Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow. An additional purchase for collections actively seeking more science fiction.

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