“Something terrible happened at the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods. When the Tensorate’s investigators arrived, they found a sea of blood and bones as far as the eye could see. One of the institute’s experiments got loose, and its rage left no survivors. The investigators returned to the capital with few clues and two prisoners: the terrorist leader Sanao Akeha and a companion known only as Rider.
Investigator Chuwan faces a puzzle. What really happened at the institute? What drew the Machinists there? What are her superiors trying to cover up? And why does she feel as if her strange dreams are forcing her down a narrowing path she cannot escape?” (via Goodreads)
The Descent of Monsters recounts a series of events that occur a few years after The Black Tides of Heaven. Tensor Investigator Chuwan Sariman is sent to the isolated, eerie Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods to look into a terrible accident that left everyone dead, save two: the Machinist rebel Sanao Akeha and the enigmatic Rider. The more Sariman digs, the more the Protectorate covers up. But Sariman will not be the weak-willed pushover they want them to be. Determined to see justice served for the victims and their families, they will risk everything to see the truth, no matter how horrifying, exposed.
Where the other two books in the series are written in third person omniscient, the third is epistolary. Events are revealed non-linearly and through a series of journals, memos, and transcripts. At first it feels a bit awkward, but once I settled into it I knew JY Yang made the perfect choice to use that style. We get to feel Sariman’s frustration with the lack of information and revel in the thrill of discovery when something new is uncovered. That Yang can create a sympathetic character out of nothing but diary entries is a testament to their skill. Although this isn’t the strongest story of the series, it’s an intriguing read. If you haven’t read the first two novellas, definitely don’t start with the third.
It’s also interesting to see Rider and Akeha from a different perspective. Readers have spent enough time with them that we understand their behavior and interactions, but Sariman only knows them through rumors and legend. Moreover, Sariman has the unfortunate luck of tripping into the middle of a much larger story they can never truly be a part of. It’s no wonder they have a less than positive experience with Akeha and Rider. The latter two have bigger concerns than Sariman’s personal quest, even if their paths cross momentarily.
As per usual, the series is full of gender diversity. Rider, as we learned in The Black Tides of Heaven, uses gender neutral pronouns, but others often misgender them as female. We never learn Sariman’s gender pronouns, although that hasn’t stopped many reviewers from gendering them also as female.
I loved the first two entries of JY Yang’s superb Tensorate series, The Red Threads of Fortune and The Black Tides of Heaven, so much that my anticipation for the third novella was nearly unbearable. Like the others, I read The Descent of Monsters in one sitting, not because of its short length but because I couldn’t put it down. If you need an excuse to add more fantasy in your life, the Tensorate series is it.
You’re reading this because I’m dead. That’s right, I’m doing that thing you hate in the weeklies you read, writing a last letter to my beloved because I expect to die. And my expectations have been excruciatingly accurate of late, so I’ll be surprised if I have to trash this. Surprised, and embarrassed.
But don’t worry – death circling overhead hasn’t turned me into a sentimental fool. This is not some misbegotten love letter or ode to a life unlived. As if I’d write that kind of horseshit.
Fuck that. This is a call to arms. This isn’t me feeling sorry for myself. I am burning with fury at the injustice I have encountered.
You were right, Kanyan. You said that this job would kill me someday, and it has. Your prize is losing the only person who’s ever meant anything to you. Congratulations.
Thanks to Tor.com Publishing 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.