The Black Tides of Heaven

JY Yang. Tor.com, $15.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-7653-9541-2
Yang introduces a captivating Buddhist-inflected steampunk setting in their (Yang’s preferred pronoun) delightful debut novella. The imperious Protector, needing to satisfy her debt to an important abbot, gives her newborn twins, Mokoya and Akeha, to a monastery. As they grow, they show prodigious abilities in Slackcraft, Yang’s version of magic, which is based on shaping the flows of natural elements. Like all youth in this society, they remain ungendered until they choose genders for themselves. When Mokoya develops the ability to see the future in her dreams, the twins’ mother reneges on her promise and takes them back to better exploit Mokoya’s foreknowledge. Mokoya decides to become female and leverage her visions to help Thennjay, an outsider of a different ethnic group, become head abbot; this drives a wedge between the siblings. Akeha takes a different route, becoming male and living as a smuggler on the fringes of the Protectorate. Decades later, as a revolution fueled by new machines heats up, the estranged twins are drawn together once again. Yang captures an epic sweep in compact, precise prose. The only complaint readers will have is the brevity of their time in this evocative new world. Agent: DongWon Song, Morhaim Literary. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/14/2017
Release date: 09/26/2017
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