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The Black Tides of Heaven

(Tensorate #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  8,129 ratings  ·  1,590 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 s
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)
femme fantasy freak 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 3.76  · 
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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
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 version of the
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
J.L.   Sutton
Mar 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Image result for jy yang

Solid world-building, character development and political intrigue in JY Yang's The Black Tides of Heaven. We follow the twin children of the Protector, Mokoya and Akeha, both referred to as 'they,' until they decide their gender. There was a fair bit of focus on their time as children. However, there were a number of big jumps in time that were jarring, I think, because they made me feel like I'd missed out on some important development. That said, the writing was good and there were some inter
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
Mar 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, queer
“The black tides of heaven direct the courses of human lives. But as with all waters, one can swim against the tide.”

What a stunner! What a beauty! I've had this series on my radar for a while because a) that cover b) I knew it was queer. So I kicked myself in the butt, bought a copy and fell in love with Mokoya and Akeha. They're royal twins with magical powers born to a ruthless and power-hungry empress. As all children in this world, they are born non-binary and eventually choose a gender whe
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 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
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
Matthew Quann
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, pretty-short
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
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Sadly, I didn't love this one as much as I had expected. The beginning is very strong: lovely prose, evocative descriptions of an inventive fantasy landscape, twins who are very connected but also very different from each other: it had great potential.

Occasionally, the novella reclaims these early qualities for a beautiful sentence or two. But it felt as if it was only a novella (instead of a novel) because the author was too lazy/uninterested in several important plot points and cha
may ➹
This was enjoyable, but felt a bit lackluster to me. I liked the way Akeha and Mokoya’s relationship as siblings was written, especially as they grew further and further apart, but it was a bit difficult to deeply feel all their pain with the time jumps. In general, these jumps created gaps in character/plot development but there was nothing to make up for them, which left me aching for more. The worldbuilding also could have been more extensive, but I did love how gender is treated in this worl ...more
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 Blac
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.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommended to TL by: Ashley Marie
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.

Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Content Warning: torture, psychological abuse, child loss

This book is one of a pair following twins, Mokoya and Akeha, who are the children of the Protector. They are sold off to the Grand Monastery as children. But when Mokoya begins to developed prophetic dreams, their mother wants her back to use her ability. As well, a rebellion is growing. Unwilling to continue to be his mother's pawn, Akeha leaves the Tensorate and joins up with the rebels, the Machinists. But every step he takes towards t
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.


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.
Apr 10, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, lgbtq
Mokoya and Akeha are twins of the great Protector, thought of as royalty, and sold to the Great Monestry as children. Both are gifted children, but it's Mokoya who has the misfortune to draw her mother's attention. As a prophet, they can devine the near future. A future than cannot be changed. As rebellion stirs, it's twin Akeha who we see decide who they want to be and want they want to right for as the passage of time occurs.

I loved some of the themes presented here. We have a richly imagined
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
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. ...more
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
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
This was exquisite.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
"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."

I was feeling a little too much reality in my end of year Asian focused reading and came across a review of th
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. ...more
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, fol
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, buddy-read
BOTM buddy read with a wonderful group of people over at Worlds Beyond the Margins.

This is the first volume of the Tensorate series of novellas by JY Yang. It is intended to be stand-alone, and was published the same day as another volume, The Red Threads of Fortune.

While I expected this to be good, I was surprised by just how good it was. The world Yang has created is vibrant and fully-developed, and their writing evokes a true sense of place without being overly descriptive (in fact, the prose
Elle (ellexamines)
Sep 08, 2017 marked it as on-my-shelf
Recommended to Elle 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 ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy, 2020
This is one of the first novels I can recall reading where the author uses the pronoun ‘they’ to indicate non-gender specificity. At first I found this quite disconcerting, but once you’ve wrapped your mind around it, it becomes just another novum in a fantasy novel.

Speaking about novums: On the first page, when Head Abbot Sung of the Grand Monastery begins climbing the 800 stairs to the Great High Palace of the Protectorate, Yang remarks: “Tradition dictated that the journey to the palace be co
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SciFi and Fantasy...: Series: Tensorate by JY Yang ("The Black Tides of Heaven") 137 196 Sep 14, 2019 09:56PM  

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Neon Yang, formerly J.Y. Yang, is a Singaporean writer of English-language speculative fiction. Yang is non-binary and queer, and uses they/them pronouns.

Yang has written a series of "silkpunk" novellas, and has published short fiction since 2012. Their novella The Black Tides of Heaven was nominated for the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella, the 2018 Kitschies Golden Tentacle and the 2018 Hugo A

Other books in the series

Tensorate (5 books)
  • The Red Threads of Fortune (Tensorate #2)
  • The Descent of Monsters (Tensorate, #3)
  • The Ascent to Godhood (Tensorate, #4)
  • The Tensorate Series: (The Black Tides of Heaven, the Red Threads of Fortune, the Descent of Monsters, the Ascent to Godhood)

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