It’s been a long time since I reviewed an ebook as I’ve been focusing on my backlog of physical books, and I usually only read a maximum of two books at once.
Chameleon Moon is an interesting mashup of dystopian fiction, fantasy, and a little bit of superhero fiction. The setting is the city of Parole, a burning city where black smoke blots out the sun and the citizens are watched by a totalitarian police force. It’s also hiding a secret from the rest of the world: people who have powers they should not have. Regan is one of them: a hitman with the skin of a lizard, he finds himself in an unlikely alliance with Evelyn, a singer and unofficial superhero. Together, its up to them to uncover the secrets Parole hides before it’s too late.
The main cast of Chameleon Moon is composed of misfits trying to survive in a hostile environment, both in terms of the environment itself being hostile and the police force meddling in everyone’s business, and that’s not even considering the anxiety, amnesia, and PTSD that our protagonists need to live with. Rose was a particular favourite of mine, a calming presence who can manipulate plants. In fact, only one character really grated on me, Finneas, Evelyn’s fanboy who has a really hard time over the course of the book. Sorry Finneas. I also love how the ladies in particular are consistently shown to be strong and resourceful, even characters with smaller parts like Lisette or Evelyn’s mother have a presence, and they seem to know much more about what’s going on than Liam, the guy who runs the mysterious Turret Home where the cast eventually finds themselves.
I also want to give the author props for the strong beginning to the book, which reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s works. I felt like it hit all the right notes and hooked me (as it should), although, I did find that the book slowed down considerably after that. I would say this book is definitely more character driven, although the world is interesting.
Speaking of world-building, the book has an interesting premise of a drug that cures users of nearly any ailment but occasionally has interesting side effects (including death) which allows for a really interesting cast of characters with a range of powers, like Danae, who can create living beings out of assorted parts and scrap metal, or Zilch, a Frankenstein’s monster-esque man who is practically immortal as long as no one harms his heart, but otherwise I found the world to be almost….bare….Sylver doesn’t waste time with flowery descriptions, which is appropriate, in a way, because Parole is anything but flowery, but I did feel like there were definitely times that the world could have been fleshed out but wasn’t.
This book is one of the most diverse I’ve ever read. The main cast is made up almost entirely of MOGAI characters, Rose is black with metallic legs, her wife, Danae, has PTSD, Evelyn is trans, Regan himself has anxiety, a prominent side character hasn’t decided on a gender that fits them and they’re okay with that. There’s also an important Latino character and two men who end up together by the book’s end, but I won’t spoil anything. The book is very clear that anyone can be a hero, even if you don’t feel like one.
If I had any criticisms of this book it would be that some scenes felt like they kind of dragged on, and I also felt like a few major questions (such as most things to do with the Turret Home) were left unanswered. Presumably, at least some of these mysteries will be addressed in the sequel. Strangely, given my first criticism, I definitely think the book could have stood to be expanded and the world fleshed out in a bit more detail. There were times when the book relied on some common tropes (like amnesia) but even this makes sense in context.
In terms of potentially triggery content, characters have depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and experience drug addiction and withdrawal (their powers result from taking a fictional drug, so it’s referenced a lot. Evelyn experiences a little transphobia (which she quickly shoots down). There’s also a brief description of a character’s suicide, and a (IMHO) graphic depiction of a character’s arm being severed and that character going into shock from it, which was one of the few things that squicked me about this book.
Overall, if you’re looking for a short, diverse dystopian superhero story, you can’t go wrong with Chameleon Moon. The characters are endearing and diverse, and despite the hopelessness of the setting, the book manages to end on a surprisingly upbeat note.