Book Review: Chameleon Moon by Roanna Sylver

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Author: Alyccea Nymaessene, November 2017

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I first came across Chameleon Moon on a suggested reading list of science fiction & fantasy novels featuring asexual-spectrum characters, written by ace-spec authors. This novel came highly recommended, and I was particularly impressed to see that it had been edited by Claudie Arseneault, and illustrated by Lyssa Chiavari, both of whom are authors I admire greatly. And believe me, this book did not disappoint.

Chameleon Moon is a dystopian, alternate reality story about the city of Parole and its citizens. Parole is a quarantined city, sealed off from the rest of the world under a protective barrier, and situated over a blazing inferno that consumes anybody who falls through the cracks.

That said, Parole is also home to characters who each have a number of otherworldly powers, such as the ability to fade into invisibility, sing hope into people’s hearts, or create living beings out of metal. These strange powers have something to do with Parole’s history, which gradually unfolds over the course of the story.

I was hooked on Chameleon Moon from the first few pages. Roanna Sylver cleverly plants intrigue and suspense in the reader’s mind by starting with the story’s climax, before jumping back to the ‘beginning’ to describe the events that led to that result. To make things even more intriguing, Regan, our main character, has his memories wiped at the start of the story, creating a way for us as readers to learn about the city and people of Parole along with Regan as the story unfolds.

However, my favourite thing about this book is its diversity. I’ve come across extensive discussion in many online communities about whether diversity is ‘realistic’ or ‘needs to serve a purpose in the story’. Chameleon Moon challenges these viewpoints, by providing a diverse cast of characters who exist just because diversity exists. For example, one of the main characters is asexual. One has prosthetic legs. It’s strongly implied that another is transgender. Three have a poly family. And several have unusual appearances that sometimes give rise to instant judgement from strangers.

At no point did I feel that any of these characters or their characteristics were essential plot-points, although they sometimes did play a role in the story. But neither did I feel they were gratuitous in any way. Most importantly, I didn’t feel any of the characters were dehumanised or portrayed as villains. Every citizen in Parole is doing their best to survive, and maybe even to help save the city, although not everybody goes about it the same way, or has the same idea of ‘success’ in mind.

Fast-paced, suspenseful, at times humorous, often dark, and full of badass moments, Chameleon Moon is not only a breath of fresh air in a genre too often dominated by cis/allo/het white male authors, but also a fantastic story of a city threatening to fall into hell at any moment, and the heroes who are fighting to protect any part of it that they can.

Chameleon Moon is available on Amazon, Gumroad, and numerous other bookstores. And if you enjoy this title, then check out Roanna Sylver’s latest novel, Stake Sauce Arc 1: The Secret Ingredient is Love. No, Really, which has just been released on 31 October 2017.