Adrienne Martini Reviews A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, Becky Chambers (Tordotcom 978-1-25023-623-4, $21.99, 160pp, hc) July 2022. Cover art by Feifei Ryan.

Becky Chambers’s A Prayer for the Crown-Shy picks up where A Psalm for the Wild-Built ends: Sibling Dex (a monk) and Mosscap (a robot) have begun their journey from the wilds back out into the built world. The robot has questions about happiness (which lead to conversations about more than that) and Dex acts as Mosscap’s guide, both logistically and emotionally.

Like all of Chambers’s work, not much hap­pens – monk and robot go from point A to point B – and everything happens. Dex’s story is about the balance between service and rest. Mosscap explores ecology and philosophy and how the two intersect. In A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, we learn about the society that was on Panga before this one and understand more why Dex’s world prioritizes acting in the best interests of other people as well as your own. But all of the sub- and sub-sub-text sneaks in while you are busy being delighted by Chambers’ clear voice. The story opens with: ‘‘The thing about fucking off to the woods is that unless you are a very particular, very rare sort of person, it does not take long to understand why people left said woods in the first place.’’

If that doesn’t draw you in, it’s likely that this writer’s smart and humane take on two friends walking together isn’t for you. But if you find yourself reading this passage and smiling inside your heart, dig in and enjoy.

Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.

This review and more like it in the August 2022 issue of Locus.

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