The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.
The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.
Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard’s scales and snake’s eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.
But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.
They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.
Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.
Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…
I know a number of people on Twitter screaming about this book, so I’m glad to have finally found the time to read it.
Details at a glance:
Title: Chameleon Moon
Series/Standalone: Series (book 1)
Author: RoAnna Sylver
Genre: NA Dystopian
First published: 2016
Pairings: F/F/F, M/NB/M
Sexual content: None
Rep: Trans polyam woman in f/f/f relationship, queer polyam disabled (prosthetic legs) dark-skinned WOC, queer polyam woman, polyam asexual character with anxiety, polyam nonbinary character, character with depression, nonverbal nonbinary side character.* Most characters show signs of PTSD.
*(POV is third person omniscient, so I haven’t specified a main character since there are several who could take the title)
Ownvoices: Yes for nonbinary gender, anxiety, PTSD, asexuality, polyamory. Author is also disabled (chronic pain).
Content warnings: Suicide, medical procedures, loss of limb, panic attacks
This is a monster of a novel. It’s enormous. I’ve probably read longer, but I take longer to read ebooks than paper books, so it’s just as well I spread out reading this over the course of two weeks.
I don’t read many books with the third person omniscient POV, and it’s one that I’d normally ascribe to pretentious literary novels or books from a bygone generation. RoAnna Sylver, however, uses the freedom this POV offers to great effect, and not once did I feel like I was reading some stuffy dead author’s attempts to sound more intelligent than they actually are. With such a large cast, many of whom take the spotlight, Sylver’s decision to use third person omniscient makes perfect sense, though it does make the blurb extremely confusing to read. Sylver juggles her large cast well in the story itself.
I’ve seen Chameleon Moon described as a hopeful dystopia, and that’s an assessment I definitely agree with. Most of the characters have suffered terribly during their lives in Parole, but still fight to stay positive both for themselves and for those around them. Some characters, like Evelyn and the elusive Radio Angel, have made it their life’s mission to bring hope to their fellow residents in Parole, using their drug-mutated powers to inspire and comfort.
A large part of the novel centres around Regan’s loss of his memories and his journey to regain them. Evelyn takes him under her wing, despite others seeing this decision as ill-advised. Regan takes on the role of audience surrogate for much of the novel, since Evelyn has to teach him how Parole works so he doesn’t get himself killed. When he learns, we learn, as much about himself as the hellhole he finds himself in.
I love all the relationships in the book, be they romantic, platonic or familial. Evelyn and her wives Danae and Rose are very sweet with each other and their son. Regan’s relationship is a spoiler since obviously he doesn’t remember its existence at the start, but it’s probably my favourite one in the whole story.
The larger-than-life characters, the science-fiction mutation of superpowers and the uplifting speeches about hope all remind me of a comic book. I’ve always been rather fond of comics. Evelyn in particular is basically a superhero, and this is even mentioned in the text.
I also want to hug everyone. Or smuggle them out of Parole.
It’s hard for me to articulate a review of this book and I feel like I’m not doing it justice. I love this book so much. The characters are all beautiful and unique, the plot complex but compelling. Regan and Evelyn are probably my faves but I love the others as well, especially Zilch. I’m excited to get to the sequel and the related short stories.
Chameleon Moon is quite possibly the best self-pubbed novel I have ever read. It deserves all the praise it’s getting, and then some.