The first book in the Tensorate series by JY Yang, set in a world modeled on ancient Asia. The story follows the twins Mokoya and Akeha, who were sold into the Grand Monastery as children. Their mother, the ruler of a vast empire known as the Protectorate, gave them to the monastery in exchange for their help in crushing a rebellion. The story gets going when Mokoya has a series of prophetic visions, but the narrative shifts to Akeha when he falls in with rebels against the Protectorate.
The setting was vivid and intricate, probably the best thing about the book. This is a world where people are not assigned genders at birth; some identify with a gender very young, while others wait until much later. For the first two parts of the book, both main characters use gender neutral pronouns.
The plot has lots of interesting political strife, centering on the massive inequality in the society within the Protectorate.
The characters were plausible and intriguing, but I think maybe the book was too short and had too much happening to really do justice to them. None of the characters really stood out to me.
The prose was great. I liked the lyrical descriptions.
Darkness had fallen like a cool hand onto the peaks of Chengbee’s exhausted, perspiring roofs. As the Head Abbot mounted step after step, his robes clung to him: under his arms, in the small of his back. The moon rolled uncloaked across the naked sky, but in less than an hour, the sun would return to scorch the land, bringing with it the start of the next waking day. On good days the nighttime exhalations of the capital city took on a lively air, the kind of energy that gathers where the young and restless cluster around the bones of something old. But all summer Chengbee had lain listless, panting like a thirsty dog…