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The Black Tides of Heaven (EBook, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery …

Well, yeah, but, no?

3 stars

I really wanted to like this: I am a big fan of what Aliette de Bodard does with traditional Vietnamese influences both in her Xuya Universe and her Dominion of the Fallen series, so this one, with its Wǔxíng based magic system (Chinese, not Vietnamese version) looked great, and challenging Western binary gender representation is a bonus. One of my students recently did her graduation film on queer identity in a German-Vietnamese context, queer reclaimed Guanyin and all, so you could say this ticked boxes.

Unluckily, the novel is hamstrung by a meandering plot, shallow characterisation and haphazard world-building, with a magic-reinforced version of Imperial Chinese authority sitting smack in the middle of an otherwise unexplained technological revolution. As a piece of fantastic literature, this is simply not that interesting, I’m sorry to say (how good a novel of queer identity it is, I can’t tell, being as a heterosexual …

@kopischke This is on my to-be-read list, so I'll keep your review in mind.

BTW, here are a few more East Asian magical tales I have read that might interest you:

  • "The Singing Hills Cycle" by Nghi Vo, currently consisting of "The Empress of Salt and Fortune" and "When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain".
  • "The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water" by Zen Cho

@sohkamyung thanks for the mentions: The Empress of Salt and Fortune is on my reading stack already (I don’t track that here, I’m afraid, because that is one big stack). I have made a note to investigate The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water. I wasn’t a fan of Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, but I’m willing to give her another chance on your recommendation.