Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang

The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang is one of a pair of debut novellas released concurrently (the other being The Black Tides of Heaven, which I intend to read soon), both of which are standalone entry points into the author's Tensorate universe. I gather there will be another two novellas coming next year, and I must admit the setup of these releases is one of the reasons I was interested in reading this series. The other, more relevant, reason was what the blurbs told me about the setting.

Fallen prophet, master of the elements, and daughter of the supreme Protector, Sanao Mokoya has abandoned the life that once bound her. Once her visions shaped the lives of citizens across the land, but no matter what tragedy Mokoya foresaw, she could never reshape the future. Broken by the loss of her young daughter, she now hunts deadly, sky-obscuring naga in the harsh outer reaches of the kingdom with packs of dinosaurs at her side, far from everything she used to love.

On the trail of a massive naga that threatens the rebellious mining city of Bataanar, Mokoya meets the mysterious and alluring Rider. But all is not as it seems: the beast they both hunt harbors a secret that could ignite war throughout the Protectorate. As she is drawn into a conspiracy of magic and betrayal, Mokoya must come to terms with her extraordinary and dangerous gifts, or risk losing the little she has left to hold dear.

The first aspect of this book that really grabbed my attention was the worldbuilding. Amidst learning about the characters and situation, we are casually told about the Quarterlands which have lower gravity, which really caught my attention. Between that and the more mundane parts of the world that we actually see characters interacting with, I was intrigued. This is a story mainly about a particular situation that the characters have to deal with and, as such, I felt that it only began to scratch the surface of the world. I definitely want to know more and the worldbuilding is one of my motivations for wanting to read more stories set in this world.

The characters, without whom there wouldn’t have been an actual story, were interestingly written. Especially in the case of Mokoya and Rider, who are most central to the story, they had many layers for us to learn about as we read. That said, I found Mokoya’s developing relationship with Rider a bit sudden, however her own reaction to it and the supportive reactions of her friends went a long way towards grounding it for me. In the topic of Rider, there aren’t too many non-binary central characters around, so it was nice to see.

At first the magic in this novella reminded me of Avatar: the Last Airbender and the more technologically advanced Legend of Korra, but as Mokoya learnt a more about the Slack and how her magic was affecting it and vice versa, the similarity was reduced.

As advertised, this was an entirely standalone story. I want to read more in this world, as I’ve said, but that’s because I found the world interesting, bit because I felt the story was unfinished. There’s a lot more left to explore in the world and, I’m sure, more interesting characters to introduce us to.

I recommend The Red Threads of Heaven to fans of fantasy, especially those interested in non-Europe-inspired secondary worlds. I will definitely be picking up the companion novella, Black Tides of Heaven. I especially look forward to reading more of Yang’s colourful similes.

4 / 5 stars

First published: September 2017, Tor.com publishing
Series: Yes. Tensorate universe, a viable entry point
Format read: ePub
Source: pre-ordered on iBooks and then also got the ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

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