Cbr11bingo Rainbow Flag, Bingo #6
From About the Author: JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate series…. A finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, they are also a lapsed journalist, a former practicing scientist, and a master of hermitry. They are a queer, non-binary, postcolonial, intersectional feminist, and have more than two dozen pieces of short fiction published. They live in Singapore and have an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia.
JY Yang’s fourth novel in the Tensorate series continues to mesmerize, revealing more information about this world where the privileged few possess “slack” powers that allow them to control the elements and rule a kingdom known as The Protectorate with tyranny. The first two books, The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune, focused on the Protector’s twin children, whose slack powers surprise and threaten her rule. The third story, The Descent of Monsters, is told by a detective investigating a deadly explosion at a government facility where disturbing top secret research was being conducted. The Ascent to Godhood introduces the reader to a new narrator and new insight into the workings of the court and the Protector herself.
The Protector, Hekate, is dead. So begins The Ascent to Godhood. The tyrant whose power and authority, whose ruthlessness, was renowned and feared throughout the land has been assassinated. The reader learns of this from the narrator, who is the leader of the resistance known as the Machinists. Machinists are revolutionaries who want to provide technology to non-powered humans so that they can have powers equal to those of the Tensors, thus evening the playing field politically. The narrator is drinking heavily and is answering the questions of some unknown (and unheard by the reader) interviewer. She is annoyed by this pesky person who seems to think she has something in common with Lady Han, the resistance leader/narrator, and perhaps even important information for her.
Lady Han is a blunt woman, one who uses salty language and doesn’t pull her punches, even when directed at herself. She has already been drinking and decides to give the unknown interviewer the story of Hekate and the story of her own life. One might think Lady Han would be overjoyed at the news of the death of Hekate, but she tells this unknown interviewer that she is, in fact, in a state of grief over it. It is no secret that at one time, Lady Han was Hekate’s right-hand woman, the person who knew all her affairs, acted as a spy, and made sure The Protector’s orders were followed; she was also Hekate’s lover.
Lady Han was not born into a powerful family or anywhere even remotely near circles of influence. She was from a family of dirt poor villagers who sold her off in order to help the rest of the family survive. Lady Han, then a child, was trained to dance and entertain the rich and powerful, and she was good at it. In fact, she was so good that she caught the attention of a very powerful minister and became his favorite. Yet Lady Han, then known as Huarong, was always thinking of how she could help herself, break out from this life of servitude and become independent. Huarong/Lady Han was not above a little thievery, which she covered with expert flattery and other skills. When she encountered Hekate for the first time, Huarong/Han found the woman unsettling and for good reason. Hekate was not yet Protector, but she was ambitious, intelligent and fearless. The story of these two women, so different and so alike, finding each other and working together is great fun to read. While Hekate is ruthless in her pursuit of power, she is also a product of her environment, which is a kill-or-be-killed place at the Royal Court.
Once Hekate has secured power, her relationship with Lady Han (so named by Hekate) changes, too. Lady Han is still her #1 lieutenant, but with time, the trust they have in one another is tested and found wanting. Lady Han’s involvement with the Machinists, which seems like an abrupt about-face, makes sense when you hear from Lady Han how she got there. Her conflicted feelings about Hekate’s death make more sense, too.
This novel ends with a revelation about the unknown interviewer and a link back to The Descent of Monsters. I really can’t wait to read the next volume in this series. Fans of fantasy and of simply wonderful storytelling should take note of JY Yang and the Tensorate series if they haven’t already.