Science Fiction Book Reviews

Review: The Descent of Monsters (Reading the Tensorate Series)

(This is Part 3 of Reading the Tensorate Series, a week-long celebration of The Descent of Monsters’ release and all things silkpunk)

The Descent of Monsters is a mystery-turned-horror that weaves a story from diary entries, transcripts, and letters, showing us the dark side of magic and the horrors committed by the Protectorate to remain in power. Yang’s progression is expertly crafted, pulling us along until we’re left with a shattering conclusion and a cliffhanger that will throw this world on its head.

THE DESCENT OF MONSTERS

J.Y. Yang
Tor.com, 2018

QUICK SUMMARY

An investigator has been tasked with uncovering the details of a destroyed research facility and the dead staff left behind. Throughout the investigation, new horrors come to light, things that show the true evil of the government. Through intrigue, horror and a few bad decisions, we learn a secret that will shape the future of this world.

WHY I LOVED IT

A NEW STYLE

Though it took me a bit to get used to it, the found materials style of writing fit what Yang was trying to do. Using diary entries and letters added a lot of intrigue to the story, keeping the details shrouded in mystery until we finally got the retelling from Rider. From the blacked-out transcripts, I had expected basic details, nothing too Earth shattering. What I got instead was a horrifying account of this super shady research facility, of the murders and mayhem everywhere. It was a great buildup that can best be appreciated at the end of the book.

MYSTERY (WITH A BIT OF HORROR)

Telling this third installment as a whodunit creature feature was a bold experiment that played out well. It’s a big step away from the previous two books and gives great insight into this world’s systems of power through the eyes of the lead investigator. We see frustration with the various leaders and the secrets they want buried, greatly adding to the mystery shrouding everything.

The reveal of the monsters and the buildup to Rider’s discoveries in the caverns were absolutely horrifying. The story morphs into an Aliens-style slow progression through a bloody, body-strewn setting. Rider is hiding behind desks, hearing the clicking of claws, seeing something out of the corner of their eye. It’s terrifying and it had me reading quickly, intent on seeing what came next. It’s yet another skill Yang has mastered in their brilliant series.

EXPANDING ON RIDER

Rider was one of my favorite parts of the second book and I was excited to get more information about their background and the driving factors behind their decisions. We learn surprising details about Rider on the first page that fuels the rest of the book, leading them toward this mysterious and horrifying research facility. Rider is unrelenting in their search, and the discoveries made will surely fuel everything to come in future books.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE

So many things are going to change in this world due to the final plot point, which would be a MAJOR spoiler to give away. All I’ll say is that it’s a game-changer for all involved, leaving behind a brilliant cliffhanger.

CONCEPTS

Silkpunk, Magic, Magical Realism, Creatures, Ruling Class, Nobility, Class Struggles, Eastern Culture, Revolutions

WHERE TO BUY

Barnes & Noble
Amazon

CITATION

Yang, J.Y. The Descent of Monsters Tor.com, 2018.

Interested in more books like The Descent of Monsters? Check out the other entries of the Tensorate Series here and here.

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash