Provenance by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ann Leckie's new novel is still set in the Imperial Radch universe, but don't be fooled... It's a very focused novel that details issues of family, inheritance, cultural relevance, and politics while completely surrounded by aliens and odd mores. Indeed, this novel is more of a comedy of manners than anything else, but there's also a bit of the mystery, murder, and mayhem as well.
Out of the original trilogy, I felt like this one matched the feel and fun of the third novel. Even so, I can't even begin to describe how many times I heard the exhortation, "Don't break the Treaty!" And of course, that's the source of most of the conflict.
Inheritance is the key motivator for Ingray, trying something new, which, of course, goes disastrously wrong. Need a thief to steal a priceless cultural artifact in order to prove that you're worthy? Ah, but first, make sure the provenance on all the key players and artifacts are up to snuff, please! :)
I really enjoyed this novel, but not in the traditional way. I tended to mostly rely on the laurels of the complicated world building that we've established in the previous novels and focused instead on the characterizations, the dialogue, and the subtleties. That's not bad, of course, but we're still destined to work for our pleasure. Gender neutrality is still a big deal in the expression of this novel, as is the complicated or rather odd names we need to keep track of.
My main issue was in the identification and thereby the connection with the characters. I can simultaneously appreciate that things aren't dumbed down for us while also having to work rather more hard not to get lost, but the fact is, it did pull me out of the tale a little too often. Maybe it wasn't entirely the names, either, but a lot of that was solved by having a rather small cast of characters. The only other issue might have had was in wanting some huge shattering change or revelation with far-reaching effects, but such is not in the cards for a comedy of errors. :)
Still, this is quite good! Fans of Leckie will still remain fans. :)
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