The Black Tides of Heaven is the first novella in the Tensorate quartet. The second book, The Red Threads of Fortune, came out the same day, and it can be read independently.
When I read JY Yang’s novelette Waiting on a Bright Moon earlier this year, I knew I had to try their novella series. And The Black Tides of Heaven did not disappoint.
It’s the story of two twins, Akeha (the story is narrated in his PoV) and Mokoya (who has a prophetic gift). We follow them from their birth to the days of the revolution that is forever changing the Tensorate. The constant time jumps did prevent me from connecting to them sometimes, but I was always invested in their story. It was painful to see them grow apart, even if that was inevitable – I almost cried multiple times. I loved them both, and I want to read more about them.
This is a novella, but no relevant character was completely one-dimensional. I even liked (liked to hate?) the villain – I like competent villainous women, and while we don’t see a lot of her, she seemed exactly that.
I already knew I loved this author’s writing, and this novella just confirmed it – the descriptions of the magic and of the Protector’s palace were beautiful.
I loved the worldbuilding. It’s speculative fiction in a non-western setting, with a very interesting magic system and an approach to gender and sexuality that I had never seen before.
I like reading about worlds where not only we have an all-queer cast (which is always great) but there’s no allo/cis/heteronormativity.
In this world, children are genderless until they choose to be confirmed as [gender]. Then they can change the way their bodies look, if they want to; some do, others don’t, for various reasons. And there are many characters with lovers of their same gender.
In this world, magic users are Tensors, and they can work with the “Slack” by pulling the five natures (Earth, Water, Fire, Forest and Metal). It’s never really explained, but I didn’t have a problem with that – I could visualize everything, and I like when SFF books (especially if they’re adult) don’t spoon-feed me information. Maybe I won’t understand everything immediately, but that means the book will be even more interesting when I reread.
Because I will reread this, I already know.
The only thing I didn’t love was the romance – I didn’t feel it, but that happens with most romantic relationships I read, so it didn’t bother me that much. Also, there’s never that much space to develop relationships in short fiction.
The saying goes, “The black tides of heaven direct the courses of human lives”. To which a wise teacher said, “But as with all the waters, one can swim against the tide.”
My rating: ★★★★¾
Have you read The Black Tides of Heaven? Do you want to, and from which book would you start to read the series?