Book Review| The Red Threads of Fortune
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
“You weren’t to blame. Violence is the fault of the one enacting it. Always.”
The second book in the Tensorate series, The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang follows Mokoya, the twin of Akeha. In The Black Tides of Heaven, readers were introduced to a world where science, eastern philosophy and magic are inexorably entwined, much as the twins Mokoya and Akeha were at the start, and then the story unveils the adventures that Akeha goes through separate from his sister, and the difficulties he faced in the return to her life.
Red Threads picks up shortly after the events of Black Tides. This time, the protagonist is Mokoya. Without giving away any spoilers, this Mokoya is a woman changed by trauma. She is bitter, distant, harsh, and reckless; she's consumed by what-ifs and the sorrows and regrets of the past; she is unlikeable. What a wonderful change from the ever-present pressure to have female protagonists be liked or loved or desired! Mokoya, in her very human reactions and choices, may not be someone you are fond of, but she is someone you can relate to. To me, this is excellent character design. Mokoya wallows in the past, clinging to her memories, but events unfold due to one of her reckless decisions (or perhaps an unvoiced death wish?) right at the start of the novella that forces her to act to save the future and face up to her past mistakes.
On the whole, I feel that Red Threads is more rushed and intense than Black Tides. The latter unfolds over a span of years, selecting different episodes in his life to develop his character. In Red Threads, however, everything happens within a very short span of time, a matter of weeks (if that long). While it conveys the urgency of the Big Problem that Mokoya and the other characters have to deal with, one of the key relationships Mokoya has feels underdeveloped, the depth of her emotions unearned. I also wish there is more of Thennjay! He is a fascinating character. I'm hoping he gets a spin-off eventually.
On the other hand, the world in which Mokoya and Akeha operate is larger and more diverse. One of the delights I had was in Yang's use of Singlish in their fantasy world. While those in the know would find a warm familiarity in the liberal and unapologetic application of a local swear word along with dialogue utilizing the unique brevity of our local patois, the presence of it is not jarring at all in a work of fantasy / silkpunk.
I really recommend the Tensorate series for a taste of something that blends East and West into something entirely new - kind of like Singapore itself.