“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?” (via GR)
The Tensorate series has been high on my To Read Queue for months now, but once I heard it was nominated for a Hugo all excuses went out the window. And more the pity that I didn’t read it sooner. The first installment is even more lush and compelling than I hoped.
Rebellions are old hat in SFF, but Yang offers a fresh new take. Although this is only the first novella in an series, the worldbuilding and character development is vast and fascinating. For some, the Protectorate is a comfortable society where everyone lives in harmony. For others, it’s an authoritarian nightmare. Mokoya and Akeha push back against that iron fist in different ways and with different results.
Despite the descriptive paragraph above, for the first half of the novella, Akeha and Mokoya have no gender. In the Protectorate, children are born genderless, use “they/them” pronouns, and dress androgynously. At any point, they can declare a gender – some declare very early, others later in life – and with the aid of doctors and medicine are “confirmed” physiologically as their chosen gender. Heteronormativity and cisnormativity aren’t things in this world. I didn’t realize how much I needed a story rejecting heteronormativity and cisnormativity until I got it. JY Yang identifies as queer and non-binary, and the sincerity and specificity of their lived experience shines through.
If you like rich fantasy settings, complex storytelling, and engaging characters, The Black Tides of Heaven is a must-read.
Akeha’s limbs trembled with the rush of adrenaline. This was it, the answer they had been looking for, scrambling to find over the past few days, ever since Mokoya dropped her basket of secrets. A new horizon unfolded, shining with ten thousand unnamed stars. New possibilities, new understandings, new ways of being. They should have thought of this earlier. Why hadn’t they thought of this earlier? It was like cutting themselves open and finding another creature living inside, nested in their blood and bones and guts. Fear and excitement seized them in equal parts.
Read an excerpt of The Black Tides of Heaven.
Thanks to Tor.com for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or get it from your public library.