Becky Chambers’ Monk & Robot series returns with A Prayer For The Crown-Shy, continuing the charming tales of Sibling Dex and their robot companion, Mosscap. In true Chambers fashion, Monk And Robot delights as much as it examines big questions of introspection, self-reflection, and the ever-changing needs of humanity.
After meeting in the robot-inhabited wilderness, Sibling Dex and Mosscap return to the human lands of their home moon. Dex sends ahead, heralding their arrival, and the two become the Monk and Robot equivalent of niche internet micro-celebrities, drawing awe in the populations of the moon’s outer villages. Sibling Dex serves as Mosscap’s guide, their tea service left behind in favor of aiding the robot in its quest to learn about humanity. However, as Dex watches Mosscap explore the world, they begin to wonder about their own place in it. This novella sees Dex and Mosscap jump from town to town, discovering what makes each unique. All the while, Dex uncovers hidden truths about themself.
If you enjoyed A Psalm For The Wild-Built, you’ll love A Prayer For The Crown-Shy. And if you didn’t like Psalm, try again. More than just another Monk And Robot story, Crown-Shy expands the world, the concepts, and the characters in meaningful ways. Crown-Shy feels like the second half of the story Psalm began, making the pair a must-have for folks who want the full story. Where Wild-Built was a Sibling Dex-centered book, Crown-Shy shines the spotlight on Mosscap. The robot’s antics, seen through Sibling Dex’s eyes, lends the world a sparkling sheen. Everything interests Mosscap, no matter how mundane Sibling Dex originally believes it to be. Sibling Dex sees their world through new, mechanical eyes, and their relationship with Mosscap reads like a true-to-life friendship. At times, Sibling Dex is annoyed by their new companion’s quirks. But for the most part, they’re discovering new things because Mosscap is eager to learn.
The central relationship whisks the story along. Crown-Shy is only 160 pages or so, but there’s a lot of love and reflection within those pages. Sibling Dex, having abandoned tea service in favor of Mosscap’s escapades, begins to grapple with bigger questions about their existence. A life serving other people can be meaningful and fulfilling. But when it comes at the expense of knowing their self-worth or personal desires, it begins to feel vapid. Though Sibling Dex finds temporary purpose in guiding Mosscap through the world of humans, they allow their uncertainty about a life of service to fester. They stand on the precipice of grand personal change, but their refusal to step over the threshold begins to poison all their interactions with Mosscap and those around them.
None of this is to say Dex is mean or rude. Not by a long shot. Instead, the story has moments of frustration, moments of understanding, and moments of uncertainty throughout. Chambers has a way of hinting at what’s below the surface, then driving the lesson home with an open and honest conversation between characters.
That’s precisely what happens here, and Crown-Shy has a unique, unexpected ending that left me with a smile. It carries on the story A Psalm For The Wild-Built started, but it brings the narrative in new, creative directions. It’s one of my favorite 2022 reads so far, and I can’t wait for more from this delightful series of novellas.