The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang. ★★★★1/2
TW: suicide ideation
I loved this little novella. It’s got awesome things like giant raptors and flying nagas, but the real reason I love this story is the deep emotional heart of the protagonist overcoming her grief and choosing to live after the death of her daughter.
I know there’s another novella set before this one, The Black Tides of Heaven, but I haven’t gotten the chance to read it yet. Clearly, The Red Threads of Fortune stands on its own.
After her young daughter died in a tragic accident, Sanao Mokoya abandoned her old life to go hunt wild nagas near the edges of the kingdom. For three years, she’s existed in a limbo, not really caring whether she lives or dies. Now, she and her pack of raptors are trailing a naga rumored to be bigger than any she’s hunted before. And she’s not the only one looking for the naga; she soon encounters someone else, a mysterious person named Rider, who has magical capabilities unlike any Mokoya has seen before. If she can trust Rider, they can work together to defend the city of Bataanar from the giant naga… and whomever is controlling it.
It’s amazing how much The Red Threads of Fortune packs into 160 pages. It’s an intricate, beautiful story of grief, loss, and healing and the relationships between mothers and daughters. And the prose is fantastic, which isn’t a huge surprise, since I’ve already known from their short stories that JY Yang is an amazing writer.
I adored Mokoya as a protagonist. The great thing about older characters is that they’ve got so much history. Mokoya is a woman in her forties with an estranged husband and a dead daughter. And a pack of raptors, of course. She’s scarred and world weary, and at certain points she contemplates suicide. She’s the sort of rough around the edges female character I adore.
Also, she’s queer, a word that could be applied to this novella in general. Part of the world building is that children are considered gender neutral and don’t chose their gender until they get older. There appears to be no prejudice against same-sex relationships, and one of the major characters, Rider, is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. It’s so wonderful to read a queer friendly, non-Western fantasy with great female characters. Also dinosaurs. I seriously loved the dinosaurs, you guys.
Actually, I just loved this novella in general. It’s doubtlessly one of my favorite reads of 2017, and it’s made me eager to get to The Black Tides of Heaven.