Mini Reviews: The Black Tides of Heaven / The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Neon Yang

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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 with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

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I’ve known about this series for a while now and having read the reviews, I felt intimidated because I thought it might be way too outside my comfort zone or maybe not my kind of writing style at all. But I also wanted to read it and appreciate it as much as others have. So when we decided upon this novella as our April BOTM for Stars and Sorcery book club, I was ecstatic and I devoured it as soon as I picked it up.

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The major drawback of this book is it’s too short size. I know I have to read the next novella as well to get a full picture of the story, but it could have been so much more wonderful if it was longer. And I say this with all my heart because I loved it and just wanted more. The world building that we get is limited in the amount but so expansive in scope and described so beautifully that I felt myself immersed in it. The elemental magic system is both familiar and new, but I also wanted to see so much more of it in action. The East Asian elements in the culture, world building and philosophy were integrated very seamlessly and that was some of my favorite part of the book. And the way gender is handled is wow. I have personally never seen gender being undefined and chosen by every single person in any fantasy novel before, and I was amazed at the author’s brilliant idea and how this choice affects the paths of the characters in the story.

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Akeha and Mokoya are great characters and it was fascinating to see the way their relationship changes as the years went by and due to the choices they made, but I also wanted to get to know them better. Would have especially liked to know more about their lives without each other, their partners and their role in the rebellion which ends up being such an important part in the second half of the book, but which we only get glimpses of. The sibling relationship made me quite emotional, and I think it’s some of very good relationship arcs I’ve read in recent times.

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On the whole, this was brilliant for what it was, but it did leave me wanting in the best possible ways. This is a world I didn’t wanna leave, and I know I’m gonna be binging the rest of the series very soon. If you are someone who loves unique fantasy worlds, I think you won’t be able to put this down just like me.

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Fallen prophet, master of the elements, and daughter of the supreme Protector, Sanao Mokoya has abandoned the life that once bound her. Once her visions shaped the lives of citizens across the land, but no matter what tragedy Mokoya foresaw, she could never reshape the future. Broken by the loss of her young daughter, she now hunts deadly, sky-obscuring naga in the harsh outer reaches of the kingdom with packs of dinosaurs at her side, far from everything she used to love.
On the trail of a massive naga that threatens the rebellious mining city of Bataanar, Mokoya meets the mysterious and alluring Rider. But all is not as it seems: the beast they both hunt harbors a secret that could ignite war throughout the Protectorate. As she is drawn into a conspiracy of magic and betrayal, Mokoya must come to terms with her extraordinary and dangerous gifts, or risk losing the little she has left to hold dear.

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As soon as I finished The Black Tides of Heaven, I knew I was gonna read this novella soon because that world is magical and I didn’t wanna forget it so soon. And this book turned out to be even more impressive.

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This time the plot had no time jumps, actually it takes place within just a few days but the amount of extensive world building we get here alongwith a deep dive into the different interpretations of the magic system, is amazing and I couldn’t stop reading at all. We also get gorgeous descriptions of magical creatures and I particularly loved two of them so much. In such few pages, we also get some jaw dropping action sequences and I was trying to picture them in my head but that turned out to be impossible.

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This time we get Mokoya’s POV and after the events of the first book, it was quite painful to share her grief. This story is essentially about debilitating grief, feeling as if there is no point in being alive, but also finding the courage to try to live again when opportunity presents itself. The development of feelings between Mokoya and Rider might feel like instalove but it’s so beautifully written that I was completely invested and my heart was breaking towards the end. I just kept wishing that I could read more of them being together.

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In the end, this may be a small novella but it has a lush and vivid world, an intricate magic system, and a gorgeous story of love in all forms. I can’t believe I’m so late in reading this series but I’m not gonna wait longer to finish the remaining two novellas.

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