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Moonight Up My Sleeve

The Descent of Monsters  (Tensorate, volume 3)

By J Y Neon Yang 

26 Mar, 2018

Miscellaneous Reviews


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The Descent of Monsters is the third volume in JY Yang’s Tensorate silkpunk series.

An isolated research facility falls silent. When concerned Protectorate officials send subordinates to find out why, all that investigators find are fragments of brutally murdered researchers and animals, a dead monster, and two still living Machinist rebels. Investigator Chuwan Sariman is tasked with solving the puzzle. 

Or rather, the task of arriving at an explanation that is acceptable to her bosses, bosses who are in no way tolerant of failure or excessive independent thought. 

The Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods specialized in hybrid animals. Not in simple hybrids between members of the same family or genus; the Institute had developed techniques that could hybridize animals as different as mammals and insects. The beast that murdered the researchers appears to have been one of their creations, a hybrid notable for its ferocity, size, and lethality.

An Institute in the business of creating monsters no doubt had protocols in place intended to prevent said monsters from running amok. Those protocols manifestly failed. While the presence of the Machinist rebels, Rider and Sanao Akeha, suggests that they might have been responsible, Chuwan is unable to question the pair personally. By the time Chuwan is assigned their task, the two Machinists have escaped, leaving behind only transcripts of their interrogation.

To Chuwan’s intense displeasure, a request for the transcripts is met with highly redacted documents. Entire pages have been blacked out; what remains is useful only to show that a high official (or high officials) in the Protectorate has secrets that they are determined to keep. The redactions only make the investigator more determined to find the truth, no matter how unpalatable.

The Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods did not limit itself to animal subjects. As Chuwan discovers, the scientists also had a well-funded sideline in human experimentation. This research has been deliberately hidden or obfuscated, but Chuwan is very stubborn and very good at her job.

Too bad for Chuwan.


Once again, Tor.com’s delightful custom of sending me works months before they become publicly available pleases me and tantalizes my readers. I am unable to resist immediate gratification; I read the file and produce a review. My readers must wait. Presumably the review just whets your appetite for the book and will lead you to buy it post-haste when first available. Cunning. The system works!

Unless my readers have forgotten all about the review when purchase time comes … 

Like the subjects in the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods, Monsters is itself a hybrid. It dances between the fantasy and mystery genres. 

Fantasy: in this world, trained adepts can master superhuman powers1, oranges can be combined with apples, and gravity varies from region to region. 

Mystery: poor Chuwan is that familiar figure, an investigator too diligent for their superior’s tastes, one whose intelligence and curiosity greatly outweigh their sense of self-preservation.

Since the story begins with Chuwan earlobe deep in crap and sinking fast, it isn’t a spoiler to reveal that the case does not tend to her benefit. However, what the Protectorate is desperately trying to conceal is a huge spoiler. Which of course I will not reveal, being an ethical reviewer.

This is an epistolary novel, told as a series of letters. Letter by letter, we watch poor Chuwan unravel the secret that the Protectorate desperately wants to hide from the world. 

By we I mean me. You will have to wait until the summer. 

The Descent of Monsters is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Adepts find it hard to draw on their abilities under stress, which means that often, when they most need their special powers, they are too rattled to use them. This strikes me as realistic (as magic goes); too many fantasy novels assume that magic is always as easy as breathing.