If you’re a regular visitor to Anime UK News then you’re likely aware that I am a big fan of Kuji Furumiya’s Unnamed Memory, a light novel series that has been adapted into a manga and soon-to-be anime. Now another of Furumiya’s works has made it to English: A Pale Moon Reverie Volume 1. Does it also prove a delightful read? Let’s take a look!
Our story follows Xixu, a Shadeslayer who fights Shades (supernatural beings that lead humans astray) and who is sent on orders from the king to work in the remote town of Irede where sightings of Shades are on the rise. The town is known for being home to fine arts, drink and courtesans. Irede is said to have been built as an offering to a god and is steeped in history, filled with myth and intrigue which makes its atmosphere completely different to the capital that Xixu is used to.
Upon arriving in Irede, Xixu meets Sari, the proprietress of the most revered courtesan house in Irede – Pale Moon. Sari has the ability to bind Shades and works closely with Shadeslayers in Irede to help combat them and keep the visitors and residents of the town safe. As part of her duties as the head of Pale Moon, Sari is supposed to pick someone to spend her life with as her partner, but having inherited the house young due to the death of her grandmother and busying herself fighting Shades, our young heroine is avoiding thinking about anything to do with romance. But when she meets Xixu and spends time with him, Sari can’t help but wonder if he might be the one she’ll choose to spend her life with…
Just like Unnamed Memory, A Pale Moon Reverie prides itself on its world-building and characters. Both Xixu and Sari have a lot of depth to them and contrast well with one another. Xixu has been sent to Irede with fairly vague orders, not understanding what he’s supposed to accomplish here but willing to put his all into it all the same. He’s aloof and standoffish, but there’s a kinder side to him that comes out around Sari.
Meanwhile, Sari has that mixture of childlike innocence and some maturity you’d expect from someone who’s only 16 years old. Her position has led her to grow up quickly, but the first sign of thinking about romance and she’ll blush and try to avoid revisiting the thought for quite a while. The fact she’s reluctant to take a partner isn’t just because it’s such an important decision, but simply because she’s not ready to think about love. And as she has to help the Shadeslayers fight off the Shades so often lately means she can afford to put that decision off for a while yet.
Sari and Xixu complement one another well, much like Tinasha and Oscar in Unnamed Memory. Author Furumiya is good at figuring out how to depict a realistic relationship that the readers can root for, while not shying away from the difficulties and misunderstandings that often come between two characters who have feelings for one another.
Although romance is a part of A Pale Moon Reverie, it’s first and foremost a supernatural series steeped in mystery. There’s a mixture of Western and Chinese inspiration at play here, giving us a rich world that feels familiar but also fresh compared to other light novels on the market.
There’s a lot of depth to the world-building, particularly when it comes to the political ambitions of the cast but also the myths and supernatural elements that surround Irede. Nothing feels tacked on nor left by the wayside. Furumiya gives everything an equal focus meaning no matter why you started the book, you’re sure to come away satisfied by the end. It’s easy to picture the world our cast inhabits too, since Furumiya’s writing is detailed but never overwhelming when it comes to setting the scene. I wouldn’t say it’s quite as polished as Unnamed Memory in terms of the writing; there are some poorly timed info-dumps in dramatic scenes, but it’s most of the way there. Certainly enough not to be an issue.
Another thing I appreciate about this one is that Furumiya is very respectful of the subject matter. Despite courtesans being a focus, there’s not too much in the way of sexual content and their work is always treated with the respect it deserves. As a rule, the courtesans have just as much control over the clients they serve as the clients do in choosing a courtesan to spend time with. The relationship is built upon mutual trust and that’s a theme that carries the rest of the story, particularly where Xixu and Sari are concerned.
As previously mentioned A Pale Moon Reverie Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to J-Novel Club, who have released it digitally as an ebook and under their subscription model before that. The series has been translated by Jason Li and illustrated by Teruko Arai. Arai has worked on several series with a Chinese influence, so captures the setting here very well. The translation from Li reads well with no issues to note.
The series is based on a completed web novel from back in 2012 (predating even Unnamed Memory) but was picked up for a light novel release under a newly established Japanese label DRE Novels from Drecom-Media last year. There are currently two volumes available in Japan, the second of which has just started being ‘streamed’ under J-Novel Club’s subscription service with an e-book release to follow in September. Hopefully, the series performs well enough both in the Japanese market and here in English to continue into further volumes!
Overall, A Pale Moon Reverie Volume 1 proves itself a must-read for fans of Unnamed Memory, but also for anyone looking for an intriguing supernatural tale. Kuji Furumiya excels at building a world and cast of characters you can get invested in and leaves you feeling satisfied once you hit that final page.
A free preview can be found on J-Novel Club’s website here.