I remember seeing quite a few positive reviews of the Tensorate Series on CBR so I jumped at the chance to download it when the first novella was the free book available from Tor’s monthly book club earlier this year.
It wasn’t quite what I expected – the world building itself was fascinating, but I was surprised by the wide range of time this novella covered. Since I knew it was a series, I think I expected this one to cover the twins growing up and eventually becoming their own people, but it went much farther, skipping years, and advancing the story much more than I would have expected. I’ve read epic novels that don’t cover this much ground and while I enjoyed the story, I kind of wished for a slower pace and development, and more time to spend with the characters as they grew up.
The head abbot at the monastery assisted the Protectorate of the empire and was promised one of her children would join the monastery. When the abbot made the deal, he didn’t specify which of her children though he assumed it would be the youngest. As it turns out, one has to be specific when making deals with the Protectorate because rather than give up an existing child she had plans for, she disappeared from the public long enough to have twins. While the deal was only for one child, she gives both to abbot when they are 6.
However, when one of the twins turns out to have powers that could be useful to the Protectorate, their mother decides to reclaim the one, and the abbot is too kindhearted to let the twins be separated. Even though the twins spend much of their time at a very political and treacherous court, they at least spend some of their childhood in a loving and caring environment.
In this world, children don’t have genders at birth, and instead choose them when they are older and it seems right. Sometimes the choice is politically inspired, sometimes they realize early on what feels right for them. As close as Mokoya and Akeha are, once they are teenagers and interact with people of different political beliefs, they start to drift in different directions, and even choose different genders. Mokoya ends up staying in the capital, working in opposition to their mother, while Akeha leaves and wanders the countryside, not having discovered his purpose as quickly as Mokoya.
In ways it was a quiet and contemplative novella, exploring how Akeha views himself in relation to his family and his sister. He very much feels like the extra twin since his mother had only intended to have one child at the time of their birth. And yet, while there are many moments of character reflection, the overall span of the novella covers a huge amount of ground, tracking Akeha over decades.
I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but am curious to see how the story continues. I hope the next novella has a more focused story and from the description, it sounds like it does. I think this novella also had to do a lot of world building, so the next story, which is from Mokoya’s perspective, won’t have to do as much groundwork and will be able to jump straight into the action.