The Black Tides of Heaven

January 8, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

tidesThe Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang

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I’m a sucker for a novella, and for a novella that’s getting lots of positive buzz. Tor.com is doing a great job with them (and with promoting the non-male, non-cis, non-white authors and stories), so it was a no-brainer that I would be reading Yang’s contributions to the line. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Black Tides of Heaven is a book that pairs with The Red Threads of Fortune, and I waffled over which to read first. In the end, I decided to follow the series as Goodreads had cataloged it, so Tides it was. It introduces us to a handful of characters, like the Protector (think Mommy Dearest with wizarding powers and a ruthlessness that would make Cersei Lannister sit up and pay attention) and Head Abbott Sung (Atticus Finch with magical powers), but the two main characters are the twins, Mokoya and Akeha, who are birthed by the Protector to honor a debt she owed the Head Abbott, and also to manipulate it so he didn’t get what he expected out of the deal. At the age of six, the twins are adopted into the Grand Monastery and are taught how to use the Tensorate magics.

Yang is a talented wordsmith. They create scenes effortlessly, imbibing them with all the senses to ensure you feel immersed in their world. Their characterization is deft, as they develop the twins to be more complex than first appearances would suggest. The Head Abbott and the Protector run the risk of being cliches, but Yang adds a few twists and turns to their development to keep you guessing. The story develops out of the relationships among all these characters, so the plot feels natural, and no development ever feels forced. The characters in their world are born sexless and adopt a male or female persona whenever they feel comfortable, so “they” is used to refer to single persons, as well as groups. It takes some adjusting to flow with the story, but this is more a limit to the English language, and not a problem with how Yang tells the story.

My only complaint about the story is that it feels rushed. The first half of the book takes its time to show and reveal the characters, but the second half feels like Yang was rushing to get to the end and still be able to call the book a novella. As I mentioned, the development isn’t forced, so nothing strikes me as Yang cheating the reader, but I would have liked more time spent with the characters as they make their significant decisions. The good news is Yang doesn’t sacrifice the emotion of their story, but since they develop the characters so well, that’s no surprise.

Yang’s style has shades of Sanderson in it, but their voice is all their own. The good news about this novella is it’s the first of four, and I can move straight into the second one. I’ll be paying attention to Yang’s future books, and I know I’ll be reading the second pair of books as soon as they’re released.

Started: October 12, 2017
Finished: October 16, 2017

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