Review: Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1)Title: The Black Tides of Heaven
Author: JY Yang
Series: Tensorate #1
Genres: Fantasy
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The Black Tides of Heaven is one of a pair of unique, standalone introductions to JY Yang’s Tensorate Series, which Kate Elliott calls “effortlessly fascinating.” For more of the story you can read its twin novella The Red Threads of Fortune, available now.

Mokoya 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?

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Let’s just get right to it: I didn’t like this book as much as I hoped I would.

I had quite high expectations going into this book. I love novella’s, the synopsis sounded amazing, and I’d never read twin novella’s before so I was incredibly curious about that. But while I ended up loving some of the aspects of the book, I ended up being disappointed by others.

One of the aspects of the book that I loved a lot were the characters, and most especially the relationships between the characters. The novella’s focus on a pair of twins, and I was very scared that I wasn’t going to be able to keep them apart while reading because I’m notoriously bad at keeping characters apart in general, but that didn’t happen. (Okay, I admit, I was confused during the first 10% of the book but that’s so much better than I expected!) Both of the characters were very distinct, and seeing their relationship transform was fascinating, but also a bit heartbreaking at the same time.

I loved being able to follow Akeha’s life and seeing him make his own decisions and be independent. The story has quite a few time-jumps and I would’ve loved to see what happened to him during that time, because we really only get to see small glimpses of his life, but it was also kind of refreshing because I’ve never read something like this before. And it was also very interesting to be able to see the changes in him after every time-jump.

I have some very mixed feelings about the world building. On the one hand, the descriptions of the world were absolutely amazing. Every time the author showed us a certain landscape or city, it was described in that kind of way that causes you to be able to picture everything very clearly. This made for a story that felt very real, and very immersive.

On the other hand, however, I was very confused by everything else in relation to the world building; the magic system, the political system and the culture. Because the book is so short you’re not really introduced to these things, but you’re kind of thrown into it without knowing what’s going on. There were certain terms for political positions (I think) stated without actually saying what this meant, nothing was explained in regards to the magic system, there were certain political conflicts which you got no information about other than the fact that they were there, and all this just left me feeling very confused. Which, in turn, made it very hard to understand and connect with the whole story.

Something that I did love a lot about this story was the way that it approached gender. When children are born, their pronouns are ‘they/them’ until they decide otherwise, or don’t. The entire ‘system’ (for lack of a better word) for this was very well thought out and incredibly interesting, and I really appreciated it.

While I didn’t end up liking this novella as much as I thought I would, I’m still very excited to jump into the other novella, The Red Threads of Fortune. I think the author is incredibly talented and the story has a lot of potential. And who knows, maybe I just needed some time to get used to the world and I’ll end up not having a problem with it at all in the second book. I have high hopes.

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