I won’t lie, the main reason why I wanted to read this book is because it has a beautiful cover. The cover was illustrated by Yuko Shimizu and I did a post all about her design for it last year. Yea, I like it that much.
I was surprised and glad when I saw a copy of The Black Tides of Heaven chilling on the new books self at my library. I quickly grabbed it before anyone else could and ran home with it to immediately start reading. I was not disappointed.
The Black Tides of Heaven is the first novella in the silkpunk fantasy series, Tensorate. It’s about a set of twins whose mother serves as Protector of their kingdom. The twins were given away to the Grand Monastery to settle a bargain the Protector had made with the Head Abbot. But when it’s discovered that one of the twins, Mokoya, has prophetic powers, the Protector takes back her child so she can use Mokoya’s powers for her own means.
This novella focuses on Akeha, who is often disregarded and overlooked as everyone focuses on Mokoya’s powers. As Akeha matures and learns about growing resistance to the Protector’s influence, Akeha decides to run away and find their own path, which leads to joining the resistance. (Goodreads)
I enjoyed reading the story and was surprised that I was hooked on it because the synopsis doesn’t sound like something I’d go for. However, the cover is really beautiful and I was willing to try the story because of it. I’m glad I did.
This story was a different reading experience for me. In this society, people are gender neutral until they declare the gender they identify with, after which they may or may not undergo surgery for that gender. The story is told in limited third-person, so gender neutral pronouns are used unless a character has chosen to identify with a particular gender.
Reading a story that uses gender neutral pronouns — singular “they” and “them” — was a new experience for me. I’ve read short articles where singular “they” is sometimes used, but this is the first I’ve read an entire story where the narrator uses singular “they” instead of “he” or “she.” Unfortunately, it sometimes led to confusion on my part. Often, I’d read a sentence and assume “they” was being used as plural, then get confused and have to reread the sentence after realizing “they” was being used as singular.
However, my difficulty with the pronouns used didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story. I was hooked the entire time I read and was eager to learn more about the world, which seems to have more than one night in a day. There’s enough world building for readers to understand how characters function in the world, but I wish there was more because I haven’t got a firm handle on how exactly that world works. But maybe that explanation isn’t needed in the story. I’m just super curious about how the time of day works in that world.
As I read, I became increasingly curious about Akeha’s abilities. (Btw, I will use singular “they” and “them” to refer to the main characters to avoid spoilers about the gender they later choose.) Since Mokoya is the special twin because of their prophetic powers, not much is said about Akeha’s abilities, though this story is about them. It made me curious about it and made me wonder if Akeha is as extraordinary as their twin but no one realizes because the focus is on Mokoya. However, as Akeha matures, we realize that they are a total badass!
I don’t like Akeha much because I think they are arrogant and snooty to their twin out of jealousy, but I am a fan of Akeha because of their badassery and also because of how blunt they are. Because this is a novella, the plot progresses quickly, which worked for me; however, I wish the book was longer so we could get more details on how Akeha matured over the years to become the adult they are toward the end.
Speaking of the end, I didn’t like it. I understand the mercy, and threat, in it, but I wanted a big fight.
It’s a good, fast read that could be completed in one sitting if you have the time.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Though if you love the cover, I’d say go treat yourself and Buy it. 😀
I think it’s worth the read, especially if you’d like to try something new in the fantasy genre or would like to read fantasy influenced by Asian culture or fantasy that includes gender diversity.