Adult · Book review · Fantasy · Short fiction

Review: The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang

37535312The Descent of Monsters is the third novella in the silpunk fantasy series Tensorate. It does not follow the twins anymore, not directly, and it’s told completely through letters, parts of diaries and reports.

I didn’t like this novella as much as the first two books, for two main reasons: the format, and the main character.
One of the things I liked the most about the first two books was the atmosphere, especially the description of the setting. Because of the format, I didn’t get many of them here, and this book has a completely different tone from the first two – it’s almost horror, but not my kind of horror. Reading about terrifying megafauna was great, but everything about it felt distant because of the way this book was written, and horror should not feel distant.
What I liked about the megafauna experimentation aspect, apart from the fact that there are dinosaurs and of course I appreciate that, is that it really makes you wonder who are the monsters.

My main problem with Tensor Chuwan Sariman, our new main character, was that she just wasn’t that interesting. I would have loved to read this book from almost every other character’s PoV but hers, and since a significant part of the book (my favorite part) was also not told in her PoV but in Rider’s, I ended up feeling like I didn’t know her at all when I reached the ending. I don’t know much about her apart from the fact that she swears a lot and has a wife she never sees.

Small Spoiler-y Section

Also, Sariman dies. All-queer cast, so it’s not like it’s a problem or anything, but I can’t say I liked that – I read this book right after another in which a similar thing happened, and I’m just kind of tired of seeing f/f couples being torn apart by death.

While I didn’t particularly like Sariman as a main character, I do get why this book was told from her PoV – every rebellion has casualties, but that’s a point of view we rarely get, so much that we’re used to them being expendable characters in fiction.

What saved this book for me were the side characters. I loved seeing Akeha again – I love them so much [they started using they/them pronouns in this book because they realized they could after meeting Rider. They started using he/him in the first book because of societal pressure. I love reading about characters figuring themselves out] – and Mokoya is still awesome, even if she’s barely there. Rider’s diary and quest were also what I was really invested in while reading this story. I wish I could have cared about Sariman just as much, but that didn’t happen.

Also, what’s Sonami’s deal?

Even if The Descent of Monsters was somewhat disappointing considering how much I loved the previous books, I still can’t wait for To Ascend to Godhood.

My rating: ★★★½

Book review · Fantasy · Short fiction

Review: The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang

33099586The Red Threads of Fortune is the second novella in the Tensorate quartet. It’s set after The Black Tides of Heaven, but it can be read independently.

While all of Black Tides was written in Akeha’s PoV, Red Threads follows the other twin, Mokoya. She has left her husband Thennjay after the death of their daughter, and now she’s chasing a giant Naga trough the desert with the help of a pack of raptors.
Yes, that wasn’t what I expected (giant raptors?), but it worked.

I loved Red Threads even more than the first one. This novella had everything I love in fantasy short fiction – complex worldbuilding explained without infodumps, magical creatures, beautiful, vivid writing that flows well, short but detailed descriptions, and relatively well-developed characters.

I loved how this book focused more on the magical creatures. There were some in Black Tides too, but they were never really developed and they definitely weren’t the focus of the story. This time, we saw a lot of magical, terrifying beasts.

This is not only a fast-paced adventure, however. It’s also a story about grief. Mokoya wants to stop running away, but at the same time she can’t – she lost her daughter a few years ago, and living won’t ever be as easy as it was before. As it turns out, she’s not the only one grieving, and grief is a monster in his own right.
Red Threads is also a story that shows how life doesn’t end there, even if it may seem that way. Nothing will be the same, but it’s worth it. (Mokoya considers suicide, so trigger warning for suicidal ideation.)

I loved Rider. When Mokoya meets them for the first time, they’re on the back of a Naga. The two get close really quickly, but it felt natural. The romantic relationships in the first book felt rushed, and I was never really invested in them. This time? I liked Mokoya and Rider as a couple, and I was rooting for them after a chapter of their interactions.

I wasn’t expecting to love Mokoya so much. I liked her in the first book, but reading in her PoV was a totally different experience. This time there were no time jumps to disconnect me from her or the story. And she changes so much in a short span of time, but it never felt forced.

In Red Threads, the magic system is slightly more explored and explained, and now that I understand it more, I love it.

Know the ways of the five natures, and you will know the way of the world. For the lines and knots of the Slack are the lines and knots of the world, and all that is shaped is shaped through the twining of the red threads of fortune.

As Mokoya discovers, there’s more to it. (And now I’m wondering if “Tensorate” has something to do with tensors as in the ones in math and physics. It would make sense, in a way.)

I want to see more of this world. While I think that the novella format is right for the story, sometimes I wish there was more of everything – the magic, the creatures, the characters. Because I loved everything I saw, and I can’t wait for the next two books.

My rating: ★★★★★