Earlier this year ElCicco reviewed two novellas that sounded interesting. I must have looked them up on Amazon and seeing that this one wasn’t too expensive, purchased it to see if I’d enjoy the writing and world building enough to go back and purchase the others in the series. It sat in my “unread” book slot for until June when I finally picked it up to read it. I’m happy to say, that I did enjoy it quite a bit and will be going back at some point to read the rest of these books. Because I found this through the site, this fits into the “Cannonballer Says!” slot on my bingo card.
I’m not really sure how to give a summary of this novella, because what impressed me wasn’t so much the plot as it was the world building and the writing. So I’m cheating and pulling from Goodreads: 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.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?
That’s a very broad outline, but it works to give you an idea. The series has been called a silk punk setting, and I suppose that works. It’s a kind of magical world that is roughly based on Asian cultures. This adds an interesting twist to the story, but what really drew me in was the way that Yang played with gender and gender expectations in the novella. Children in the Protectorate don’t get assigned a gender until they choose one, and one of the conflicts that happens early in the story is that Akeha decides that she’s a girl long before Mokoya is ready to make that decision. The rest of the plot, about corruption in an empire, is honestly pretty standard fantasy fare for all that Yang has a unique world to set that plot in. But what really impressed me was the culture they created for no other reason then that they wanted to see non-gender binary individuals treated matter-of-factly in fiction.
This is a wonderful addition to high fantasy, and if you enjoy that genre (or are looking to branch out because of bingo) I definitely recommend this one.