Thursday, October 13, 2022

The Red Threads of Fortune

Neon Yang
Completed 10/9/2022, Reviewed 10/9/2022
3 stars

This novella suffers from sophomore slump, as many second books in a series do.  It didn’t grab me the way the first one did.  The plot simply felt average and the magic system, spirituality, and gender innovations weren’t really taken to a different level.  It was simply a story in the same universe as the first, The Black Tides of Heaven.  It didn’t help that I’ve been so distracted by work.  However, I was hoping for something to get lost in so I could stop thinking about work, but this book didn’t pull me in.  It was nominated for a 2017 Otherwise Award, vying against the first book, strangely enough.

This story takes place two years after the events of the first book.  Mokoya has recovered from the physical damage she sustained, but emotionally, she’s a wreck.  She’s lost her gift of prophecy as well as her daughter.  Now she takes to the countryside, hunting down the terrifying naga, which are flying dragon-like creatures.  In particular, one enormous naga seems bent on destroying the mining city of Bataanar.  On her journey, she meets the mysterious Rider, who she takes as a lover.  Together, they try to unravel the mystery of this mega-naga before it destroys the city and leads the countryside into another war.

This book is told from Mokoya’s perspective.  So that’s different from first book, which was mostly told from her twin Akeha’s perspective.  However, there isn’t much new about her here, other than her grieving over her daughter.  Akeha and the rest of the characters from the first book play smaller roles.  It’s really about Mokoya and her budding relationship with Rider.  

There isn’t much more to the world building here either.  The only item of note is that we learn more about the naga and the experiments performed with them by a nefarious cabal.  The prose, however, really shines.  There’s a lot more description here as we spend a lot of time in Mokoya’s head rather than in dialogue. It’s beautifully written, but doesn’t advance the plot very much.  In fact, I felt like it took half this short work to really get going.  

I give this book three stars out of five, kind of a let down after Black Tides.  But Yang continues to impress me with her wordsmithing and ability to portray a complicated gendered society with grace and ease.  I’ll continue to read through this series, having all of them in one volume, because I’m interested to see where else Yang can go in this world.  Hopefully it picks up a bit, but even if it stays average, it’s still worth reading.

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