The Black Tides of Heaven

Tensorate #1

Paperback, 236 pages

English language

Published Sept. 26, 2017 by


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4 stars (3 reviews)

The Black Tides of Heaven is one of a pair of standalone introductions to JY Yang's Tensorate Series. For more of the story you can read its twin novella The Red Threads of Fortune

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 …

2 editions

Well, yeah, but, no?

3 stars

I really wanted to like this: I am a big fan of what Aliette de Bodard does with traditional Vietnamese influences both in her Xuya Universe and her Dominion of the Fallen series, so this one, with its Wǔxíng based magic system (Chinese, not Vietnamese version) looked great, and challenging Western binary gender representation is a bonus. One of my students recently did her graduation film on queer identity in a German-Vietnamese context, queer reclaimed Guanyin and all, so you could say this ticked boxes.

Unluckily, the novel is hamstrung by a meandering plot, shallow characterisation and haphazard world-building, with a magic-reinforced version of Imperial Chinese authority sitting smack in the middle of an otherwise unexplained technological revolution. As a piece of fantastic literature, this is simply not that interesting, I’m sorry to say (how good a novel of queer identity it is, I can’t tell, being as a heterosexual …

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3 stars


  • Twins--Fiction.
  • Prophecy--Fiction.
  • Imaginary wars and battles--Fiction.