Sci-fi Novel Review: Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice

This review is based on an eARC (Advance Reading Copy) provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Moon of the Turning Leaves has been released in paperback and will be released as an ebook on February 27, 2024.

I’ve had Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice on the vague fringes of my TBR for a few years now. But when I saw he was writing a sequel that could be read as a standalone, I admitted that this may be the shiny object that finally got me to try the series. And so I picked up Moon of the Turning Leaves. 

Moon of the Turning Leaves takes place a couple decades after Moon of the Crusted Snow and provides enough backstory that it can easily be read without having read the prior novel, though there are references to past actions that probably spoil the earlier work for those who plan to read both. It picks up with a small community of Anishinaabe survivors rebuilding their patterns in the Northern Ontario wilderness some decades after an apocalypse left modern technology unusable. But after years in one place, the hunting and fishing are becoming harder, leaving them wondering whether to begin moving with the seasons or to explore the possibility of returning to their ancestral homeland on the bountiful Lake Huron. They choose the latter, and the majority of the novel consists in exactly this expedition—braving dangers natural and unnatural on a months-long trek to find a suitable long-term home. 

I didn’t know going into the book that I ought to expect a travelogue, and I was surprised by the slow pacing and relative lack of central conflict. But the novel is short enough to hold a reader’s attention through the slow build, and there is a sufficiently clear goal—and enough dangers along the way—to keep that attention for the duration. And readers who enjoy glimpses into different cultures will particularly appreciate the rich portrayal of an Anishinaabe striving toward an only partially remembered portrait of their past. 

While much of the book is written through the eyes of a teenager venturing outside her home for the first time, the leaders of the expedition are older hands who presumably will be familiar for readers of Moon of the Crusted Snow. The characterization is adequate for the main story, but this is an area where I’d expect return readers to experience additional richness. 

Instead, the real selling point here is simply the glimpse into an indigenous society trying to build a sustainable life after the apocalypse. The concerns about their way of life and ability to live off the land come through vividly, and as they make the journey south, it becomes increasingly unclear whether either state of the land itself or the violence of the surviving neighbors would make the whole expedition futile. And while these obstacles may not build in the way I’d expect from a traditional novel plot arc, they’re plenty well-foreshadowed and create some gripping conflict as the story progresses. 

On the whole, Moon of the Turning Leaves is a short and engaging novel, perfect for fans of long journeys and stories about indigenous societies, whether or not they’ve previously read Moon of the Crusted Snow.

Recommended if you like: indigenous POV, post-apocalyptic travel stories.

Can I use it for BingoIt’s hard mode for POC Author, and is also a Sequel that is Published in 2023.

Overall rating: 15 of Tar Vol’s 20. Four stars on Goodreads.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *