Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
Head abbot Sung of the Grand Monastery did not know it yet, but this night would change the course of all his days.
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?
In an alternate China, the Protector rules out with the help of powerful magic called the Slack. Her Tensors, able to move the Slack, power all important technology with their abilities. Her youngest, twins Mokoya and Akeha, are born solely to settle a debt with the monastery, to which she owes a child. When Mokoya develops the gift of prophecy, her mother wants her back in the palace. The monastery can keep Akeha, the spare one. But the twins are inseperable. Until they aren’t.
Yongcheow exhaled. “Not just that. People make mistakes, they cant be mistakes. I don’t think you believe that either.”
I loved the worldbuilding. In fact, I wanted more of it. The book is short so we don’t get as much as I would have liked. I like that technology is powered by magic and the magicians controlled by the ruler. I also liked that people are born without a specific gender and later decide what gender they are.
Sonami was the first to exit the cart, a graceful figure wrapped in a light silk dress the color of chrysanthemums and jade. She had chosen her gender the same year the twins were born and had grown well into that role.
I also liked the relationship between the siblings and between them and their powerful mother, the Protector. Akeha has always felt like a spare part. When his sister becomes the all important prophet, he feels even more so. I liked the dynamic between them, the sort of obsessive love and how they have to choose their own paths.
I also loved the Protector. She’s so power-hungry, so cunning, so devious, it is a joy to read about a female that has all these traits.
Akeha said nothing. He had not been in the capital in a long time. Mother’s purges were stern, quiet things: doors pushed in at night, muffled bodies dragged from beds. Vanished. Mokoya once asked Sonami where they put all the graves. Sonami said, “Mother doesn’t leave that kind of mess.”
I loved the relationship between her and her children and how complicated it is.
Amazing worldbuilding, fascinating characters – a great start into the trilogy.