The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

33099588Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

****

Review:

Have you ever opened a book, read the first two paragraphs, and just been completely immersed in the worldbuilding? The Black Tides of Heaven is that book. Between the worldbuilding and the characters, this book is a must-read.

The Black Tides of Heaven was the most recent read in a long list of novellas with fantastic worldbuilding, yet I can truly say that this was the first one where I truly clicked. Something about Yang’s lyrical prose brought immediately brought me into this beautiful Asian-inspired Tensorate world and I never left. The magic, or Slack, is based on the five elements (Fire, Earth, Water, Wind, Metal) where each element corresponds to a different ability. While the Slack is used quite heavily, there are mentions of an Academy specializing in Slack research that I really wish we got to see.

Mokoya and Akeha are our twin MCs who get introduced to us as young children. Over the course of this novella, we watch the two of them grow up against the backdrop of political and intrigue within the Tensorate. into decidedly very different people. I found them compelling characters, especially Akeha who was essentially born as a spare in a political entanglement. One fascinating aspect of the Tensorate is that all children are born gender-neutral and only as they grow up do they ‘confirm’ their gender. One of the early conflicts involves this discovery and there is this absolutely beautiful scene where one of the twins comes to the realization of their gender.

My one complaint with this novella is the length and pacing. The Black Tides of Heaven attempts to pack 35 years of events into a scant 200 pages, which unfortunately means frequent time skips, extremely rapid pacing, and lost details. There’s not really room to breathe in-between scenes and a lot of important events end up occurring off-screen. For example, later in the book one of the twins meets a character. In the next time-skip, they’ve been steady lovers for the past several years. Much of the politics occurs behind curtains as well, so much of what we hear is this character is bad and these people are bad without much detail on what exactly they’ve done that’s bad.

Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. For anyone who loves unique and immersive worldbuilding, this is the book for you. Akeha and Mokoya are enchanting characters that truly whisked me through a fast-paced story. My only wish is that it was longer.


r/Fantasy 2020 Bingo Squares

  • Novel with a Colour in the Title
  • r/Fantasy Book Club Book
  • Novel Featuring Politics

Publication Date: 26 September 2017
Publisher: Tor.com
Format: eBook
Pages: 236
Word Count: ~48,400
ISBN: 076539541X

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