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The Black Tides of Heaven

(Tensorate #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,511 Ratings  ·  552 Reviews
The Black Tides of Heaven is one of a pair of unique, standalone introductions to JY Yang's Tensorate Series, which Kate Elliott calls "effortlessly fascinating." For more of the story you can read its twin novella The Red Threads of Fortune, available now.

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya devel
Paperback, 236 pages
Published September 26th 2017 by
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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)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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 ve
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 ther
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
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 twin ...more
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 o
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 w
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. W
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 He
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fantasy, asia


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.
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
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 w ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-paper, 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 self-d
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
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
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 m ...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
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 yo
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this! The world of the Protectorate was fascinating. The biggest "cons" of this book are that the world is clearly very rich, very complex, and yet we just don't have enough page time to truly get a complete picture (or at least the illusion of a complete picture).

I really enjoyed the ways this book treated gender. In this world, babies and children are not assigned sex at birth. A person can choose to confirm (or not confirm!) a gender at any point. Sometimes that mea
Peter Tillman
I'm having trouble with this well-received novella, and may not finish it before it comes due back in a few days. I like the writing, and the Malay Chinese mythic background, but nothing much has actually happened. And I don't much like any of the characters. Well, the prophetess sister. Hrm.

DNF at 60%. 2.3 stars. I won't be reading the "twin" novella, but maybe something later?

Ann Leckie's preview, from her website:
"First up, the paired novellas The Red Threads of Fortune and The Black Tides of
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars! It's just about midnight and I am Very tired, so apologies for the mess of a review to follow! I'll tidy it up tomorrow lmao

My main issue was (as it usually tends to be with novellas and short fiction) the length. It felt like a story that should have been a few hundred pages longer, perhaps. The tidbits of worldbuilding were fascinating and engrossing and I desperately want to know more about all of it, but trying to get through 35 years of fairly complicated events is a difficult t
Michelle Morrell
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, x-read-2017
This was a quick read of a society where magic replaces technology yet politics still abound.

I felt the story was slight, that it was created around the true message of gender fluidity, personal choice, and acceptance. While this is a very valid viewpoint, I still felt it was more preaching than telling a story. Still, it was well written for what it was, though heavy handed.

In this society, people are gender neutral until they choose for themselves: male, female, or neither. Once the choice is
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 t
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

People are born with an undefined gender. Once they grow up and decide what gender they are they will be declared with means that they will use the masculine or feminine pronouns (instead of the neutral ones before their declaration), they will start to dress like their chosen gender and if necessary they will get a sex change. No questions asked. It's amazing how this world accepts everyone's gender whether or not they had the physical body of that gender or not.

The st
Brandon St Mark
Oh my god, this was such a great book. I really liked the way Yang used gender in her world building, and the magic system was really unique (thought you could tell it borrowed a lot from Asian views on the classical elements).

We all know that I don't care for romance, but I got so excited when the queer romance happened in this book. I think my reaction can be summed up in these two gifs:

I guess this is why representation matters? Idk, but I'm super excited to read the next book after I read Oa
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
this is basically everything I ever wanted in an Asian-inspired fantasy 😭😭😭💜
I was so looking forward to reading this series, as I waited to get my hands on all of the three novellas! I could have enjoyed this book more, had it been at least 100 pages longer, allowing room for characters to grow and the readers time to better connect with them.

For one, the “big” confrontation at the end was underwhelming, building up to this huge moment only to have it rushed and, basically, unresolved. The world-building is fascinating in the bits and pieces that are detailed enough to
Jan 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Very quick read as its a short TOR novella, but has alot of interesting ideas. Its a fantasy novel in setting, where the leader of the Empire (Protectorate) dominates the world, twins are born to her and sent to the Monastery. The world explores gender neutrality and the idea of choosing your sex/gender when you come into your skin. I felt the fantasy setting was really only used to explore this idea without really being a fantasy novel. The characters, the world building and action just seemed ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For the links and better readability, I suggest going to Just Love.

I’ll organise this review by first writing about what concerns both books, like the fantasy world, writing style, and the concept of gender and transgender in this series, and then I will have a short look at both books individually. I’ll try to keep it manageable in length, promise.

When I saw the covers in a tweet, I couldn’t but find out more about the books behind them. I read an interview with the author and was even more int
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting world-building, and I really loved all the queer stuff that was discussed.
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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 animati

Other books in the series

Tensorate (4 books)
  • The Red Threads of Fortune (Tensorate #2)
  • The Descent of Monsters (Tensorate, #3)
  • To Ascend to Godhood (Tensorate #4)

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“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.” 3 likes
“Let the black tides of heaven direct our lives,” he murmured. He turned to look at his partner. “I choose to swim.” 2 likes
More quotes…