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The Black Tides of Heaven

(Tensorate #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  5,030 ratings  ·  994 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
Paperback, 236 pages
Published September 26th 2017 by
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Popular Answered Questions
Lali While Allison is correct about the assignation of gender in this world, there is romance between people who choose to identify as male. So yes, there…moreWhile Allison is correct about the assignation of gender in this world, there is romance between people who choose to identify as male. So yes, there is gay romance.(less)
Samantha Pennington Short answer, yes.
Long answer: In this world, all kids are non-binary until confirmation when they get older. The main character, Akeha, is non-binary…more
Short answer, yes.
Long answer: In this world, all kids are non-binary until confirmation when they get older. The main character, Akeha, is non-binary in that they never think about their gender to the point that they’re shocked when their twin chooses to be a woman at confirmation. When they were young, they agreed never to go through confirmation. When Akeha finds that their sister has always known they were a girl, they’re surprised. Akeha ends up deciding to be a man, but there’s definitely this feeling that Akeha wanted to stay non-binary. Later, Akeha meets another person who uses masculine pronouns and chose to be a man at their confirmation, but never went to the people who help people’s bodies become a specific sex so they use masculine pronouns, but remain non-binary.(less)

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Average rating 3.78  · 
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Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Actual Rating: 3.5

The Black Tides of Heaven centers around a pair of twins, Mokoya & Akeha, as they navigate a complicated political landscape & constantly dodge the schemes set forth by their mother, the Protector.

It always excites me when I get the opportunity to read a fantasy story with nontraditional setting. Though this is only a novella, author J.Y. Yang manages to pack in rich cultural aspects, along with a magic system that reads like a more complex & spiritually oriented
2.5ish stars.

Innovative and compelling but also sort of claustrophobic and manic. There's some really cool world-building in the tiny bits and pieces it's detailed, but it's basically half the length of a novel, and there's only half the amount of world-building there needs to be in order to provide the bare minimum amount of context.

All the cool bits are casually breezed through in order to focus on the actual events, which end up being rushed and always unresolved. Again, in half a novel
James Chatham
Y'all, this book. It's difficult to put into words how amazing this novella is. Within it is an expertly crafted world, built subtly but convincingly, complex characters, political strife that actually feels important, and an interesting magic system. Through this novella, Yang explores gender and sexuality: people in this world are born without a gender, and are thus referred to with they/them pronouns until they "confirm" as male or female - or stay genderless. The two main characters are ...more
K.J. Charles
Tremendous and highly original fantasy novella, one of a pair starting a series.

You know how loads of fantasy is set in a sort of not-Europe-but-really? This is set in a not-Asia, with Chinese, Japanese and Nepalese echoes rather than the standard German, Italian, Ruritanian. Beautifully delineated world, lovely social, political and magical development.

And the gender! Kids are all 'they' until they pick a gender, which they can do aged three or sixteen or never. A default they for everyone.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, novella
This short little novella manages to tick a lot of my boxes: sociological worldbuilding, a focus on sibling relationships, interesting social structures, musings on gender, and a language that just transported me along.

This book focusses on Mokoya and Akeha, twin children of the ruler of their country, how they are used as pawns in their mothers power machinations but also how they find their agency in a world that does not want to give them any. While Mokoya develops rare prophetic powers their
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-fantasy
My Video Review:

Wow this was so good! I really liked the society and how everything was set up. Akeha was such a great character to read about, and I liked the dynamic between Akeha and Moko. Their abilities were awesome and I loved the magic system. The Slack was really cool and I liked that the twins could communicate through it instead of talking out loud when they wanted. Also, in this world, people do not immediately have a gender assigned to them. They confirm
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fun and fast epic fantasy novella. Or is it SF? Regardless, there are great little tidbits and dense worldbuilding going on here and I had a pretty awesome time. I love detailed worldbuilding, but sometimes diving right into an assumed world only shown, rarely told, is its own joy.

Odd, no? But exposition CAN be quite comforting in a tale.

This doesn't have all that much of it, and that is fine except when it can get a bit overwhelming. The rest of the time, we have to just rely on the characters
This was an excellent little novella. I read it all in one sitting. Even though it was short, the world building is rich. No words were wasted on infodumps, and the story and surrounding world was told organically.

The characters were wonderful. Akeha especially, experiences a lot of growth over the course of these chapters. I did not like him at first. I thought he was a little closed minded, childish, too dependent on his sister, but his story grew and really made you care for him.

The writing
Matthew Quann
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: novella, fantasy
There's a lot of interesting ideas in J.Y Yang's debut, The Black Tides of Heaven, but they are rarely given the requisite time to breathe. This is, in part, due to the way that Yang has decided to roll out their Tensorate series. Instead of a novel, the series arrives on the scene in two novellas from's novella imprint (which I've previously enjoyed). So, for being a brief read, the book covers a lot more ground that it's modest page count would suggest.

The tale in The Black Tides of
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it


Can you go wrong with an Asian inspired fantasy?
I ask stupid questions sometimes.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this before. It was fantastic.
Set in a richly imagined world, JY Yang’s first part in their Tensorate series is evocative, bold, and dreamlike. I wanted to be more emotionally wrapped up in the story, though, because I liked so many of the ideas so much, and I love when my head and my heart are equally engaged when I’m reading. But there’s plenty here to keep me wanting to learn more of what happens in the tumultuous Protectorate Yang created.
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Black Tides of Heaven is a beautiful story about twins, fate and finding your own path. It follows a young person trying to find his agency in a world that has always seen him as an afterthought, as someone unimportant and passive, and he decides to fight against that. It's also a story about the complexity of family ties.

JY Yang is now one of my favorite authors.
When I read their novelette Waiting on a Bright Moon earlier this year, I knew I had to try their novella series. And The Black
This novella isn't quite as intense or focused as the later books in the series, but I still thought it was wonderful. I highly recommend reading The Red Threads of Fortune as soon as you finish this one, as I think that provides the most complete narrative of Akeha and Mokoya's stories.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommended to TL by: Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
Eh, it was okay. The premise sounded great but overall was underwhelming and the writing was awkward (to me anyway). The powers and system behind them were interesting but not enough to interest me completely.

Bridget Mckinney
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Listen. There's basically a 100% chance that anything Kate Elliott calls "effortlessly fascinating" is going to be wonderful, so it's no surprise that this pair of novellas by J.Y. Yang are pretty close to perfect. Yang has crafted a meticulously beautiful fantasy world that cleverly melds science and magic together with a central sibling relationship that sustains the heart of both books. Much will surely be made of Yang's treatment of gender and sexuality, and any accolades on that score are ...more
Allison Hurd
This was truly delightful. I think the only issue I had was that it was abbreviated where it could have been made into a truly moving story if it had a little more flesh on its bones. It worked really well as is, but I think it could have been superlative with a little more space.

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)

Things to love:

-The take on gender. Hard to miss and hard not to love. A culture that does not force gender, and even postpones
3-1/2 stars. And this rating definitely means "I liked it!"
Akeha and Mokoya are twins, the children of the Protector of their continent, born only so their mother could weasel out of a bargain. Despite their not-very-welcome origin and purpose in the world, they manage to become their own persons and determine their own directions, in entirely unexpected ways.
There is no good way to describe these novellas! Each story just throws the reader into a fully-constructed world and mythology,
4.5 stars
This was exquisite.
Shaun Hutchinson
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I adored this. It was a wonderful story of learning who you are and embracing that person. The writing was superb, and I really enjoyed the way the author handled gender in the story. I'm already starting the next novella in the series.
Elise (TheBookishActress)
Sep 08, 2017 marked it as on-my-shelf
Recommended to Elise by: Acqua
shoutout to the nicest person on Goodreads for sending me her arc of part of this series which I have been excited to read for months and now must - gasp - actually read
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This book is scheduled to be released on September 26, 2017, in conjunction with its companion novel, The Red Threads of Fortune . The author has stated that both are considered standalone novellas. This is a review of the ARC, received courtesy of Tor in exchange for an honest review.

My review of The Red Threads of Fortune can be found here.

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

This series hooked me in right from the synopsis:
- two novellas
- written by a
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Meh. Got up to the halfway mark and just put it down.

The basic problem, I think, is that the book tries to do both a complex emotional drama and a sophisticated political plot, but does it without giving you the necessary foundation of characterization and world-building.

Thus, the biggest thread in the book is the complex relationship between our two twin protagonists. The problem is that for the life of me, I could not come to sympathize or care for them. It's not because they're odd little
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Akeha and Mokoya are the twin main characters of this story. They are the children of the Protector, a lady who holds sway over politics and much more in the land where they live, but their mother is scheming and manipulative and not someone to cross. As children they are given into the care of the Great Monastery and they're raised for most of their young lives there. Whilst they live there Mokoya discovers they have prophetic abilities, and together the twins wonder how to hide this so their ...more
I was really impressed with J.Y. Yang's The Black Tides of Heaven. This was a novella that felt like reading an entire novel because of everything that it covered. The world building was phenomenal, what they did with gender in this was fantastic, especially the entire coronation of picking the gender. I love books that are about siblings and that is one main reason why I loved this story. I like twin stories even more, so this book really delivered for me. A great little plot, an amazing world ...more
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
For whatever reason, I wasn't expecting this to be so awesome. Definitely carrying on with the series! Akeha and Mokoya and Thennjay and Yongcheow are fascinating (and I suppose the Protector is too).
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This fantasy novella is entertaining enough for its brief length, and shows some originality, but it fails to explore its most interesting ideas, and the character development and worldbuilding – while serviceable – are not particularly deep.

In a quasi-Asian world, a Protector rules over not-China with an iron fist. The first half of the book follows the Protector’s youngest children, twins Akeha and Mokoya, through their childhood, discovery of their magical powers and coming-of-age, while in
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
„HEAD ABBOT SUNG of the Grand Monastery did not know it yet, but this night would change the course of all his days.“

Promising start to a fantasy novella with a strong chinese flavour. The author identifies as non-binary and the main characters as well, at least until they reach their teenage years...

“Sonami had just turned fifteen, yet still wore the genderfree tunic of a child, their hair cropped to a small square at the top of their head and gathered into a bun. They bowed, hands folded in
What a beautifully written fantasy novella, one I hope to see made into a movie someday.

The smatterings of magic and technology were intriguing and I hope we get to learn more in the sequels. The most compelling idea was the culture where children are genderless until they confirm, at any age, what is right for them.

Read for the Worlds Beyond the Margins - 2019 Challenge

Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
3 stars because there was a lot to like. But lots of issues too: too many plot lines without enough connections and not really meant to be novella length I think.
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This first episode of the "Tensorate" series by Jy Yang introduces the readers to a beautifully crafted silkpunk universe: imagine "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", with elemental magic and science, a story of conflicted siblings and a big pinch of political intrigue, and you get an idea of what "The Black Tides of Heaven" is about.

The story is set in a land ruled by a ruthless and Machiavellian Protector, a cold woman who doesn't let anyone get in the way of her will. She decides to have her
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JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing (The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and two more slated for 2018 and 2019). Their short fiction has been published in over a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons.

In previous incarnations, they have been a molecular biologist; a writer for

Other books in the series

Tensorate (4 books)
  • The Red Threads of Fortune (Tensorate #2)
  • The Descent of Monsters (Tensorate, #3)
  • The Ascent to Godhood (Tensorate, #4)
“The saying goes, ‘The black tides of heaven direct the courses of human lives.’ To which a wise teacher said, ‘But as with all waters, one can swim against the tide.” 12 likes
“With all the horrors in the world, it was easy to forget there were wonders too.” 5 likes
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