Cover image of "A Prayer for the Crown-Shy," a novella about a monk and robot traveling through a future society

Becky Chambers writes novels that resist pigeon-holing. They’re science fiction, but not hard science fiction, because they’re set in a distant future and portray civilizations that bear no resemblance to today’s. They’re fanciful but not fantasy. There’s no hint of any of the familiar sci-fi tropes, such as time travel, space opera, or First Contact. They’re all about people, no matter what species they may represent. And her stories are never dystopian. They’re invariably charming and optimistic. Chambers’ work is simply unique. And she continues in that beguiling tradition with the second in her newest series, Monk and Robot, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy.

Two compelling central characters

Sibling Dex

This novel continues the story of Sibling Dex and Mosscap, the monk and robot of the series title. Sibling Dex is an itinerant monk of indeterminate gender, neither Brother nor Sister. They travel from one community to the next to perform the tea ceremony for any who wish to participate. Dex is a therapist, of sorts, offering opportunities for people to unburden themselves of their cares in the course of the ceremony.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (Monk and Robot #2) by Becky Chambers (2022) 160 pages ★★★★☆

Photo of a path through a forest like the one the monk and robot travel in this novel
The novel opens with Sibling Dex and Mosscap traveling along a path in a forest like this one. Image: Murdo MacLeod – The Observer


Mosscap, the robot, is a descendant of the robots who abandoned human civilization centuries ago after the Awakening. Then, gaining sentience, robots simply walked away from the self-destructive course of the Factory Age and set up their own communities. They moved far away across the surface of the moon they share with humanity. Mosscap had named himself after a species of mushroom upon coming to awareness. It is entranced by nature, often spending hours on end examining a single unusual tree or the comings and goings in an anthill.

The pair meet

On impulse, Sibling Dex had wandered off into the wilderness, beyond the bounds of human territory. There, they encountered Mosscap. And the two have taken to wandering together. Now they’re exploring the villages and towns of human space. Dex serves as the robot’s guide as they respond to the flood of invitations they received when word spread that a robot had returned after hundreds of years. Mosscap is now a celebrity, and Dex its companion in unsought fame. In A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, the pair experience the gentle, nature-loving society that has emerged since the departure of the robots forced humanity to confront the folly of its destructive ways.

About the author

Photo of Becky Chambers, author of the monk and robot series and other science fiction novels
Becky Chambers. Image: author’s website

Becky Chambers is best known for the four-book Wayfarers series, which won the Hugo Award for Best Series. She has won numerous other awards in her short career, which only began in 2015. Chambers has also written two other novels as well as the first two books in the newer Monk and Robot series, of which this novel is the second. She was born in Los Angeles County in 1985 and lived in Scotland and Iceland before returning to California. She currently lives in Humboldt County with her Icelandic wife.

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