Provenance (Imperial Radch)

By Ann Leckie

Rating: 4 stars

Taking place in Leckie’s Ancillary universe, the points of connection with the Radch books are pretty limited as this book takes place entirely outside Radch space, although the events that Breq has set off at the end of that trilogy are referenced here, and, in some ways, set many of the events in this book in motion.

Although we’re outside Radch space so gender is acknowledged, Leckie still plays around with it a bit, introducing a third gender (nemen, with pronoun e/em). Never explained, it’s just there, right from the start as a normal part of society, which I quite liked.

The book starts with Ingray Aughskold offworld, doing something very illegal for, it turns out, very boring reasons: she wants to get an edge over her foster-brother for her mother’s approval and possibly be named her heir. I must confess that the “poor rich girl” stuff at the start put me off a bit, as I found it difficult to empathise with Ingray’s motives. But things are, as always, More Complicated Than That and soon there’s a murder of a foreign citizen, and meddling aliens to go along with local politics and I’m finding myself completely swept up in the story, and Ingray’s evolution as a character.

The idea of the prison known as Compassionate Removal (the euphemism made me smile) is intriguing as well. Ingray’s people know nothing about it, and consider people sent there legally dead. The person who returns is reticent to talk about it, but the hints e drops make me want to know more, and also speaks volumes about the society that created it. It’s a nice piece of worldbuilding, not that that’s a surprise, it’s something Leckie is excellent at. Speaking of worldbuilding, another element that I really enjoyed was the universal obsession with “vestiges” on Ingray’s planet. These are souvenirs of events, from a ticket to the space station to the declaration of independence; each family guards their own vestiges, I suppose the physical reminders of their history, jealously, and the idea that some, indeed, many, could be fakes leads to some interesting speculation about what that revelation could mean for the society.

So the book took a little for me to warm to but once I did, I enjoyed it as thoroughly as the Ancillary books.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356506982
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Year of publication: 2017

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