Book Review: The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

“This is the value of ritual and repetition, be it in a cockpit or in a church pew. Familiarity gives us room to breathe and to think.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, The Relentless Moon

Title: The Relentless Moon
Series: Lady Astronaut Universe (Book 3)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Genres: Science Fiction, Alternate History, Historical Fiction
Pages: 544 (Paperback)
Published: July 14th, 2020

My Rating: ★★★½
Read: 1/7/2023 – 1/10/2023


As much as I love this series and its setting and characters, I just didn’t click with this one as much as I did with books one and two. The change of POV surprised me because I stop reading the summaries at this point in any series. I was pumped to see what was next for Elma, but I suppose given the epilogue in The Fated Sky, this one’s on me.

While Elma is on her way to Mars, her friend and fellow astronaut Nicole Wargin is back on the moon as the colony continues to be established. With her husband a politician on Earth, they make the difficult decision to live apart as they do the work they were meant to do. Despite their distance, they come to share a common enemy: The Earth First movement.

Characters aside (although there are some name drops and familiar faces scattered throughout the story), the book has an overall different tone from the first two. The actual space travel is less of a focus. Instead, it’s more of a story about sabotage and a pandemic. Yet, the themes remain similar in other ways. Where Elma was known for her anxiety issues, Nicole, too, struggles with her own disorders, which in this case is an eating disorder. And much like Elma, she doesn’t let this get in the way of her job and passion for space travel. I didn’t connect with Nicole as much as I did with Elma, but I appreciate the strength of her character.

I’m not sure if more books are in the works for this series. If so, I’m curious if the next one will also follow Nicole or if we’ll circle back to Elma. Maybe we’ll get to know one of the other Lady Astronauts? Even though I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the previous two, I admire Mary Robinette Kowal’s dedication to the research, especially when it comes to science and how it might have looked even in the alternate take on the 1960s.

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • Getting to see more of the Moon Colony.
  • Even though it caught me off guard, it was interesting to get to learn more about more of the Lady Astronauts.
  • Getting to see some glimpses of Nathaniel without Elma around.

What I didn’t like:

  • Though I appreciated who she was as a character, I just didn’t vibe with Nicole. Maybe I got too attached to Elma.
  • Evidently, I’m not ready to read any sort of pandemic literature in great detail.
  • I didn’t find the plot particularly exciting, at least compared to the others.


Something I wondered while reading is how many of the real events of the 1960s influenced the fictional 1960s we see in this universe. Without giving too much away, there seemed to be some similarities. Polio has been a recurring theme in the series, but I guess I always thought of the full-blown pandemic happening earlier on (though I’m not an expert on the subject). There are some political aspects as well that seemed to have a bigger influence.

Where to buy the book:

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