A finalist for the 2019 Lammy Award for best LGBTQ SF/F/Horror and the Locus Award for Best Novella
Neon Yang continues to redefine the limits of silkpunk fantasy with their Tensorate novellas, which the New York Times lauded as "joyously wild." In this third volume, an investigation into atrocities committed at a classified research facility threaten to expose secrets that the Protectorate will do anything to keep hidden
You are reading this because I am dead.
Something terrible happened at the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods. When the Tensorate’s investigators arrived, they found a sea of blood and bones as far as the eye could see. One of the institute’s experiments got loose, and its rage left no survivors. The investigators returned to the capital with few clues and two prisoners: the terrorist leader Sanao Akeha and a companion known only as Rider.
Investigator Chuwan faces a puzzle. What really happened at the institute? What drew the Machinists there? What are her superiors trying to cover up? And why does she feel as if her strange dreams are forcing her down a narrowing path she cannot escape?
The Tensorate Series
Book 1: The Black Tides of Heaven
Book 2: The Red Threads of Fortune
Book 3: The Descent of Monsters
Book 4: The Ascent to Godhood
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Yang exposes more of the nefarious workings of a fantasy world's repressive government in the middling third novella of the constantly inventive Tensorate series (after The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune). Chuwan Sariman, a hardworking but underappreciated investigator for the brutal Protectorate, is assigned to write the official report on a gruesome massacre at the experimental Rewar Tang Institute, where one of the Protectorate's weaponized animal hybrids escaped and killed the entire staff. Sariman quickly discovers she is only allowed access to a few records that limit her ability to understand what happened. Yang uses journal entries, redacted transcripts, and correspondence to involve the reader in the frustrating investigation process. After writing the sham report she realizes she was meant to create, Sariman goes rogue to discover the horrifying nature of the actual experiments and teams up with Cai Yuan-ning, the sister of one of the killed researchers, to relay the truth to the Machinist rebels. Yang's focus on the mystery and slow revelations unfortunately shortchanges character development. Fans of the earlier works will continue to enjoy Yang's crisp writing but will wish the series' larger arcs received more than the minor incremental advances here.
The Tensorate Series Continues with a Dark Mystery
The third novella in JY Yang’s silk-punk fantasy series is very different from the first two. It is told in letters, document fragments, and diary excerpts, and occasionally from the point of view of Investigator Chuwan. We do meet previous characters like Rider and the Twins through the various forms of documentation, but they are not the the protagonist of this volume.
Chuwan is a Tensor, a trained Adept of Slackcraft (which is the form of magic in this world), who is tasked with investigating the tragic circumstances befallen a Tensorate research facility. This facility is reportedly used for animal husbandry, but it appears instead it has been used for making monsters. But even this is not the deepest and darkest secret it holds.
This is not my favorite volume of the Tensorate Series so far, but it does advance the story. It is structured very differently from the first two volumes, and this seems to be a polarizing aspect. Some reviewers like this, and some do not. I found it to have a slightly disappointing ending, but I will no doubt continue reading the final(?) novella, “The Ascent to Godhood.”