In the Shadow of Heaven [ORIGINAL VERSION]

In the Shadow of Heaven [ORIGINAL VERSION]

by javert

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Profanity
  • Traumatising content

This is the original draft version of ItSoH. It is incomplete, partway through act 3, and will not be finished in this form. The new version is available here. The new version follows most of the same continuity, but is significantly better written.

ACT ONE: New Creatures with New Hearts

POVs: Yan, Aymon

Complete act. Chapters 1-42. Approx word count is 225,000 words.

To catch up on the story faster, you may consider reading the abridged act one.

Table of Contents / Reference Sheet for part one can be found here. Contains spoilers.

ACT TWO: The Realms of the Unreal

POVs: Yan, Aymon, Sylva, Sid. +Kino bonus chapter.

Complete act. Chapters 43-89. Approx word count is 329,000 words.

To catch up on the story faster, you may consider reading the abridged act two.

ACT THREE: The Eyes that See the Glory

POVs: Yan, Aymon, Sylva, Sid. +Halen bonus chapter.

Incomplete. Chapters 90-current.

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score
  • Total Views :
  • 164,990
  • Average Views :
  • 1,250
  • Followers :
  • 200
  • Favorites :
  • 60
  • Ratings :
  • 52
  • Pages :
  • 3,027
Go to Table of Contents
Fiction breaking rules? Report


The Days after Christmas
40 Review Upvote
Writathon Royal Road 2019 winner
Fledgling Reviewer (V)
Top List #1000
4th Anniversary
Word Count (18)
Table of Contents
132 Chapters
Chapter Name Release Date
Chapter One - Midnight's Shining Stars ago
Chapter Two - Images and their Meanings ago
Chapter Three - The Interview ago
Chapter Four - Summer Plans ago
Chapter Five - A Home Among the Stars ago
Chapter Six - Our Father, Who Art Thou? ago
Chapter Seven - Breakfast of Champions ago
Chapter Eight - Claddagh ago
Chapter Nine - Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow ago
Chapter Ten - Deafman Glance ago
Chapter Eleven - Meeting the Tamed Bear ago
Chapter Twelve - The Refugee ago
Chapter Thirteen - Dinner Date ago
Chapter Fourteen - Far Away Secrets Are Easy to Keep ago
Chapter Fifteen - A Simple Prayer of Delicate Design ago
Chapter Sixteen - All Of Us Pirates Would Have Been Martyrs, Part I ago
Chapter Seventeen - A Tamed Bear Still Has Claws ago
Chapter Eighteen - Debrief and Disrobe ago
Interlude: The Book of Secrets ago
Chapter Nineteen - A Return to the City ago
Chapter Twenty - The Weapon Concealed in Silk ago
Chapter Twenty-One - Just Two Slow Dancers ago
Chapter Twenty-Two - An Assignment and a Social Visit ago
Chapter Twenty-Three - A Song in the Dark ago
Chapter Twenty-Four - The Flame Which Casts a Long Shadow ago
Chapter Twenty-Five - Abandon Ship / Abandon Hope ago
Chapter Twenty-Six - That Which Will Never Be Forgiven ago
Chapter Twenty-Seven - Scrubbing the Walls of Chauvet Cave ago
Chapter Twenty-Eight - The Cool Darkness Underground ago
Chapter Twenty-Nine - The Dead on Culloden's Field ago
Chapter Thirty - Shock and Awe ago
Chapter Thirty-One - The Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg ago
Chapter Thirty-Two - The Marquis ago
Chapter Thirty-Three - The Good Captain ago
Chapter Thirty-Four - Trial by Comparison ago
Chapter Thirty-Five - An Appearance Meant Not to Deceive but to Inform ago
Chapter Thirty-Six - The Past Is Not a Home You Can Go Back To ago
Chapter Thirty-Seven - All Of Us Pirates Would Have Been Martyrs, Part II ago
Chapter Thirty-Eight - Fighting Fire With Fire ago
Chapter Thirty-Nine - Holy Sick Divine Nights ago
Chapter Forty - The Emperor's Punishment ago
Chapter Forty-One - A Death in the Family ago
Chapter Forty-Two - What Shall We Do with a Drunken Spacer? ago
(Reference Chart / Table of Contents) Part One: New Creatures With New Hearts ago
(Abridgment Guide) Act One: New Creatures with New Hearts ago
Chapter Forty-Three - Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain ago
Chapter Forty-Four - Don't Quit Your Day Job ago
Chapter Forty-Five - Murder on the Oathkeeper Express ago
Chapter Forty-Six - No Such Thing as Good News ago
Chapter Forty-Seven - Elections ago
Chapter Forty-Eight - Puppets and their Masters ago
Chapter Forty-Nine - Hurry Up and Wait ago
Chapter Fifty - Crewman ago
Bonus Chapter: Kino, Part One - Falmar ago
Bonus chapter: Kino, Part Two - Hanathue ago
Bonus chapter: Kino, Part Three - Emerri ago
Chapter Fifty-One - Yan. ago
Chapter Fifty-Two - No-Evil ago
Chapter Fifty-Three - I Don't Want to Die in Here ago
Chapter Fifty-Four - The Good Doctor ago
Chapter Fifty-Five - Schemes in a Guilded Age ago
Chapter Fifty-Six - Meet-Cute ago
Chapter Fifty-Seven - The Green King and the Silver Flame Attunement ago
Chapter Fifty-Eight - The Keeper Did a'Hunting Go ago
Chapter Fifty-Nine - The Road Less-Traveled ago
Chapter Sixty - The Walls Come Tumblin' Down ago
Chapter Sixty-One - The Bait in its Trap ago
Chapter Sixty-Two - San Bernadino Welcomes You ago
Chapter Sixty-Three - Etta's House ago
Chapter Sixty-Four - Sid, Master of Understanding ago
Chapter Sixty-Five - The Loneliest People in the Whole Wide World ago
Chapter Sixty-Six - In Which Kino Claims She Has No Exploitable Vulnerabilities ago
Chapter Sixty-Seven - Surgery ago
Chapter Sixty-Eight - O Ye of Little Faith ago
Chapter Sixty-Nine - Photographs, Memories, and Spies ago
Chapter Seventy - Pirate Plots ago
Chapter Seventy-One - The Mother We Share ago
Chapter Seventy-Two - 'Tis Better to Have Tried and Failed Than Never Tried at All ago
Chapter Seventy-Three - Dr. Sylva or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Power ago
Chapter Seventy-Four - Commitment Actions ago
Chapter Seventy-Five - A Message Received None Too Soon ago
Chapter Seventy-Six - A Friend is a Stranger is a Friend ago
Chapter Seventy-Seven - When Love Is Gone, There's Always Justice ago
Chapter Seventy-Eight - Condemned to Repeat Forever ago
Chapter Seventy-Nine - When Justice Is Gone, There's Always Force ago
Chapter Eighty - Interrogation ago
Chapter Eighty-One - And When Force Is Gone... ago
Chapter Eighty-Two - There's Always Mom ago
Chapter Eighty-Three - The Distance Between the Real and the Ideal ago
Chapter Eighty-Four - The Cliff of the Future, the Darkness of the Past ago
Chapter Eighty-Five - The God of the Gaps ago
Chapter Eighty-Six - All Of Us Pirates Would Have Been Martyrs, Part III ago
Chapter Eighty-Seven - Zesa ago
Chapter Eighty-Eight - If I Forget You, Israel, Let Me Forget My Left Hand ago
Chapter Eighty-Nine - Clemency for the Wizard Kino ago
(Reading/Abridgement Guide) Act Two: The Realms of the Unreal ago
Chapter Ninety - The Choices We Must Live With ago
Chapter Ninety-One - The Interior of Aymon's Heart ago
Chapter Ninety-Two - A Negative Peace ago
Chapter Ninety-Three - O Captain My Captain ago
Chapter Ninety-Four - Can't Trust A Spy, or a Friend ago
Chapter Ninety-Five - Funeral Codes / Funeral Rites ago
Chapter Ninety-Six - The Left Hand of Darkness ago
Chapter Ninety-Seven - The Friend of My Enemy ago
Chapter Ninety-Eight - The Cracks Too Small to Slip Through ago
Chapter Ninety-Nine - In Which Our Heroes Discuss the Plan ago
Bonus Chapter - What Yan Wrote ago
Chapter One Hundred - Fire to the Sun ago
Chapter One Hundred One - Confess the Murder ago
Chapter One Hundred Two - Quid Pro Quo ago
Chapter One Hundred Three - In My Thoughts and in My Words ago
Chapter One Hundred Four - All the Lonely People ago
Chapter One Hundred Five - A Tiny Moment of Respite ago
Chapter One Hundred Six - Eleventh Song: Song of the Stranger ago
The Home of the Past - Part One ago
Chapter One Hundred Seven - The Gom Jabbar ago
The Home of the Past - Part Two ago
The Home of the Past - Part Three ago
Chapter One Hundred Eight - "It's like we're in the beginning of a buddy cop movie." ago
Chapter One Hundred Nine - Daughters of Hungry Ghosts ago
Chapter One Hundred Ten - Bless the Arrows that Strike Us Where We Stand ago
Chapter One Hundred Eleven - The Tragic Accident ago
Chapter One Hundred Twelve - Phone Tag ago
Chapter One Hundred Thirteen - The Business of Lying ago
Chapter One Hundred Fourteen - Drone Swarm Tactics ago
Chapter One Hundred Fifteen - Geiersburg Fortress ago
Chapter One Hundred Sixteen - Hombres. Sailors. Comrades. ago
Chapter One Hundred Seventeen - Orange Ball of Pain ago
Chapter One Hundred Eighteen - The Better Angels of Our Nature ago
Chapter One Hundred Nineteen - The Most Fragile Thing of All ago
Chapter One Hundred Twenty - A Fariskian Bargain ago
Song of the Stranger, Part II ago

Leave a review

Sort by:

Engaging character/story-Great mix of magic & tech

One of the best-written pieces that I have read in the past year, not just here on RR, but in all fiction by traditionally published and self-published writers. The voice is solid, consistent, and interesting. The world-building feels deep and complex, but so far no info-dumps, just well-laid bits of description and trivia and song lyrics at the start of each chapter. This is a world where religion matters, but one that is built on science and engineering and "magic" - not sure if it is only telekinesis and telepathy, or if it is "Force"-like in the manner of Star Wars, but so far it is a great mix of technology, magic, religion, politics, spacer vs. grounder culture, Imperial-capital planet vs. Rimworld-planet culture, and the switch from being a student at the end of college to entering the working world - not a coming-of-age as such, but more of a story about going from theory to practice. Also, a nice change of pace from the evil/amoral cultivation societies or apocalypse stories that I see much more frequently. A great read that I highly recommend as of Chapter 10.


The story is nice but, the plot progresses so slow at times. The main reason is because there is a lot of different pov's which do start to get annoying in my opinion. 

Spoiler: Spoiler

 I like most characters. Grammar is great.World building is also done pretty good. Just that the pace is too slow.


A Sweet Space Opera capturing the cost as a face of an empire

Reviewed at: Chapter Forty-Seven - Elections

Empires are giant ponderous things that crush the humanity of their subjects and servants. Follow our heroine (and other all-too human chanracters) as they are granted power at great personal cost. This space opera certainly competes with the best of them. Future readers are cautioned that this story is slow (needing time to develop characters' personalities), uses religion as a central theme (as an avenue of imperial control), and contains gay themes (which I find super sweet). In the Shadow of Heaven is a truly excellent space opera full of dramatic tension, character development, world building, and stark demonstration of the costs of imperial power.


Diverse Character-Driven SF

Reviewed at: Song of the Stranger, Part II

I almost don't know what to do with myself now that I've caught up with this story. The way that the characters are presented and grow over time is my favorite part of this work, but the plot itself is very engaging. The author does a good job at setting up plot points for them to pay off much later - nothing in this story is a simple throwaway to bulk up the word count. For example, the act I plot with the guild seems at first like it is just there as an example of what sort of diplomacy they would have to do, but time and again elements of the Guild's politics keep popping up into the narrative.

The characters experience hardships and while the stuggles they face are difficult, it never feels like there is absolutely no way out of this. One of the things I look for in fiction is if the characters ever have moment where they can identify at least one unequivocally good thing that happens to them. Without this a story just becomes pure misery. Even the villains of this story have some moments of lightness, some redeeming factors that don't make them cartoonishly evil.

I was skeptical of webserials at first, since I almost exclusively read traditionally published fiction but this story has far passed my expectations. There have been Hugo-nominated novels in the past five years that are not as engaging nor well-thought out as this story.

I would recommend this work to anyone who likes character-driven science fiction, especially for those looking for meaningful LGBT representation in the characters.

Style - The story is told from the points of view of various characters. I think the decisions of which characters to follow are strong. Each chapter progresses the plot at least one step. The story progresses near-linearly which makes it easy to understand what is going on.
Story - Some parts of the story, especially at the beginning are a little meandering. I think my biggest critque here is that I did not immediately have a good scope of the Empire itself and what would mean to be an apprentice to the first. I thought it was maybe like a foreign service officer deal at first, while it is more like being understudy to a galactic hegemon. This becomes apparent later on, but I would think for what it was that maybe the characters would act a little more blown away by it. Other than that, the story is very engauging. While there are characters that I am not as interested in, I am still interested in the role they play in the plot. The world building is fed to us at a good pace without it being an information dump. The world building we do get is meaningful within the context of the story as well, as has consequences for the plot.
Grammar - As far as I can tell it is grammatically perfect. Occassionally there are some exteremly minor typos or a duplicate word or phrase, but nothing that detracts from the writing.
Character - This is a character driven work. The characters are well-defined and I have good good sense of what their primary motivations are. The characters are introduced gradually enough that it does not get confusing who is who. The dialog in this story is far and away the strongest element. The cast itself is diverse without anyone feeling like they are just there for token representation.

Note - I read the first 10 chapters of the rewrite on Ao3 first and then read the story on RR to the point it was published as of June 2021 (chapter 120).


Amazing character growth

This story features some of the best character character growth I have seen in a story. Characters actually react to situations and change because of them, add this to engaging world-building, interesting polotics and an awesome mix of magic and sci-fi and you have one of my favorite story's. :)


A facinating sci-fi setting, which RR has a large lack of, with a small dash of 'magic'. The theological thread doesn't come off as overbearing, but mearly an element of the setting/character(s) and I thought well used (personally, my philosophy would probably most accuratly fall under 'agnostic theism' for however that tempers your reading of my words.)

I have a small ding due to character(s) who are/become important, but have only learned superficial information/growth. This is exacerbated due to other important characters having direct PoV chapters so we have a lot of information on them directly, which skews the growth/information as far as Main Characters to be lopsided; atleast, as of the writing of this review. Caveat, there is a bit of illusion as this is a web serial rather than a book, so the separation between distinct 'books' is heavily blurred and techniques that work between books aren't as easily effective/influencing on a regularly-expanding story which the serial-posting brings.

Still, I await each chapter with bated breath- like a flower slowly blooming, each petal unfurling is more facinating than the last.


Overly vague and plodding at the start

This fiction suffers from some glaring issues despite the general competence of the author.  First is the absence of a prologue; there is no hook presented to entice further reading and instead we are immediately dumped into the life of lesbian spacer girl, which was frankly quite dull.  Second is the overabundance of inane detail; we learn much about how to get from A to B, what is eaten and where, how rooms are arranged, etcetera. But when it comes to important world building information we are left in the dark.

Everyone we encounter in the first 10 chapters seems quite impressed with Yan’s mentor but we never learn anything about what they know that makes him so renowned.  Likewise we are told that she lives in a galactic empire of sorts where a standardized religion seems to play a large role but again no details.  Also Yan’s motivations for accepting her mentor and thereby placing her life and happiness in jeopardy are quite vague.  This isn’t a good start to entice continued reading if you cannot tell.

As such I’ve found it difficult to motivate myself to read past the first, quite long, 10 chapters as the details and impressions of an interesting future story are sadly absent.  Apart from a general lack of detail of the wider universe even the powers of the protagonist are only vaguely alluded to.  Instead we are treated to a litany of lengthy description and dialogue which I can only call inane as they have little to do with an actual plot.

I’m sure that the story does eventually progress and those details are given but know that you have a bit of a slog to reach them prospective readers.


Despite generally not liking religion or most religious themes, and the annoying fact that every character so far is either gay or disabled for whatever reason, this story and characters are well written and enjoyable. Even if you're a bit leery, I recommend giving it a try because it draws you into the story and makes the characters come to life.


Excellent, captivating story

Reviewed at: Song of the Stranger, Part II

I'm not very good at reviews, and moreover, I'm not very good at saying good things about what I review (I'm more inclined to point out the negatives), so this won't be too long. I'll preface it by saying this currently one of my favorite stories on this site and I also believe it's one of the better-written ones.

I guess I'll go over the scoring categories.

Style: The prose is good, the dialogue seems pretty natural. Good enough to deserve 5 stars on this site even if it's not exceptional.

Grammar: I can't remember noticing a single issue with the grammar reading this. I'm sure some exists, but it's minor at most.

Story: The story seems to be well thought out, there's actual progression, direction, etc, which immediately puts it leagues ahead of the vast majority of content on this site. The main issue for me with this story is that it's slow. There were many times when I just wanted things to happen already. This is the only thing keeping me from giving this story 5 stars overall. I think the main reason for it feeling so slow is because there are many parallel threads, especially in Act 2.

Characters: The characters are consistent and individual. They have progression. They behave realistically, or at least believably. No Mary Sue, characters other than the MC are actually characters as well, etc. 

The setting is interesting and, as far as SciFi goes, highly consistent. I also enjoy the fact that rather than blatantly violating the laws of physics at random points and then following them at others, the story breaks the laws of physics in specific, consistent ways and generally follows them outside that.  There are some things about the setting that are a bit confusing and left unexplained (as of chapter 94 anyway), but it's generally good.

Overall, I'd give it 5 stars all around if not for the pacing.

I'll leave off with praise for the author for their consistent bi-weekly updates. (Whelp, that didn't age well lmao)


Soundly Constructed Characters, wonderful Sci-Fi

A great example of well written, character driven, science fiction. The story is told from multiple perspectives, usually one per chapter, all of which prove interesting. The story is fairly slow paced, driven by the characters and their decision making process.