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Provenance, by Ann Leckie

I loved it! Here's a non-spoilery review (duplicates what I've put up at Goodreads)

The book's called Provenance, and it's a perfect title, because where things--or people--come from and what (who) they really are is a central theme. The main character, Ingray, is the daughter of a powerful politician from the Hwae system--only actually she's a child from a public crèche, and that sense of her own insignificant roots weighs heavily on her and affects her actions. Hwae society is very wrapped up in what they call vestiges, a term that indicates everything from historical artifacts to personal mementos and souvenirs (one thing that Ann Leckie is excellent at is strange-ifying things--like museums or the importance of artifacts--to reveal stuff about human nature), but what if foundational vestiges are false? The two people Ingray first interacts with are also of mysterious provenance, and their claimed identities change.

In terms of story, there are multiple plots and schemes interacting, from the very personal (Ingray's competition with her brother) to the statewide (Ingray's family is in competition with another family for influence) to the regional planetary (a neighboring federacy wants to manipulate or pressure Hwae into granting it certain concessions that will work to its advantage in the region) to the galactic (the treaty with alien species, which *no* one wants broken, but which is at constant risk).

Ingray is a **very** different protagonist from Breq (from the Imperial Radch trilogy--Ancillary Justice etc.): she's not superhuman in the least, and that makes her bravery extra-impressive ... and very persuasive. When you see her doing things she's terrified of doing but that she feels she has to do to for the sake of people she cares about, it's inspiring! Makes you believe maybe you could too. Not that that's what the book's aiming for, but it's a great side benefit.

And there's humor threaded through the book, whether it's the fact that "compassionate removal" is the Hwaen euphemism for prison or the fact that the Radchaai ambassador to the Presger just can't keep pronouns straight. There are also some uproarious examples of insufficient machine translation.

And some really marvelous aliens. Folks, you will love the Geck ambassador. She's just wonderful.

I'll mention a couple of things I was less enthusiastic about just to acknowledge that they were present: there was a budding romance for Ingray that felt unnecessary and a bit shoehorned in: the object of affection was an interesting person who did bring out the best in Ingray at some key moments, and I could see how *in time* affection/romance might bloom, but Ingray's attention--rightly--was completely elsewhere most of the time, so.

There's also a lot of explaining that goes on. I didn't mind this exactly--I think it's good to make stuff clear to your readers--But sometimes I felt that the level and wide-rangingness of the discussion wasn't credible for a situation. In the end, though, I decided to accept it as an artistic choice, like accepting in a detective story when the detective gathers all the suspects in a room at the end to go over what happened. It was a conscious decision, though.

But let me get back to my main point. This is an excellent, immersive, surprising, fun, thought-provoking, and moving book. Highly recommended.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/876781.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 7th, 2018 03:42 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it! I really enjoyed the book.
Feb. 8th, 2018 12:07 am (UTC)
One of these days, I'll read something by Leckie.
Feb. 8th, 2018 10:11 am (UTC)
I'll be interested in your opinions!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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