An ambitious young woman has just one chance to secure her future and reclaim her family's priceless lost artifacts in this stand-alone novel set in the world of Ann Leckie's groundbreaking, NYT bestselling Imperial Radch trilogy, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards.
NOMINATED FOR THE HUGO AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL 2018
NOMINATED FOR THE LOCUS AWARD FOR BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL 2018
Though she knows her brother holds her mother's favor, Ingrid is determined to at least be considered as heir to the family name. She hatches an audacious plan--free a thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned, and use them to help steal back a priceless artifact.
But Ingray and her charge return to her home to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray's future and her world, before they are lost to her for good.
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. :)
Now that the Strong Female Protagonist (meaning, what happens when a lazy writer writes a female action hero that is basically just a stereotypical male action hero with girl parts) has become a tired cliché, it is something of a subversive pleasure to follow Ingray, the heroine of Ann Leckie’s new novel Provenance, who is clever and resourceful and likeable, but who also makes as many bad decisions as good ones, is riddled with anxiety, and is nearly always on the verge of bursting into tears. Ingray’s journey is as hectic (and as endearing) as her personality: what starts as a prison break story tinged with an unfortunate case of mistaken identity shifts gears to a heist story, then to a family drama, and then to a comedy of political intrigue, and then…. Well, suffice it to say that Provenance wears a lot of hats over the course of its story, which is not nearly as convoluted as some reviewers have complained, though there are moments where some intriguing developments (like the contentious relationship between Ingray and her snake-charmer stepbrother Danach) get shortchanged as the story shoots off in wild new directions. The novel is sharp and fast-paced and entertaining – and more emphatically comical than the Radch Trilogy – and it is fascinating to catch a glimpse of what human civilization is like outside of Radch space. In the end it feels more like a side-quest than a main storyline in the Leckieverse. Don’t let that put you off – it’s fun and memorable and well worth reading even as an appetizer for bigger things to come.
Note to self: Probably you should write a review right after you finish reading, no matter how uninspired you may find yourself by said book.
What I meant to say: something along the lines of "it was tolerably better than the Imperial Raadach trilogy, but likely only because it distilled into one book all the minutia of the other three."
What I find myself saying now: I remember almost nothing about this book, so I found myself looking at my three highlights, which did nothing to jar loose any memories. I looked to my friends for help, but alas! No memories. However, Jess' notes and highlights deserve note for cracking me up and were no doubt similar in emotional response.
My own highlights include such uninspiring descriptions such as: "The assigned pickup location was a small room walled in orchids growing on what looked like a maze of tree roots."
"Captain Uisine spoke then, his voice unbelievably calm and smooth. “What makes a citizen of the Geck, Ambassador?”
"She knew that she should distance herself from Pahlad as quickly as she could. For just a moment she felt that dismaying feeling that she was about to fall."
Two and a half cups of barely-warm tea.
Clearly, one of my uninspired reads of 2021. Fitting.
I went into this expecting it to be dense and complex and maybe even a little challenging, based on descriptions of the author's Imperial Radch series that shares a universe with this book. While the universe itself is quite intricate, including alien races, cultures, and detailed political intrigue involving several parties ( the details of which I occasionally skimmed over 😬), it was honestly a lot less intense than it could have been. Comparing its accessibility to a couple other space opera novels released this year, this falls in between Yoon Ha Lee's near-impenetrable Raven Stratagem and John Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire, in which ever line is so quippy it could be used as a catchphrase (although I didn't enjoy this quite as much as either of those).
It's fairly intimate for space opera, focusing on a single girl in a series of misadventures. It's got some action and mystery and heist-iness but it remains more of a romp than a high-stakes thriller. There's some interesting character work and some seriously impressive worldbuilding and it's worth reading for those features alone. If nothing else, I'm that much more convinced to read Leckie's debut, Ancillary Justice, now.
I was torn between "it was okay" (2 stars) and "I liked it" (3 stars). For the most part, the book was a tedious slog with an uninspiring protagonist (no matter how much all the other characters kept telling us she was awesome). So why did I waver with 3? Because Leckie decided not to milk Breq for another volume. Because tea played only a minor role (that was replaced by Sherbet, Instant Noodles, and novelty glass blocks). Because the first 25% of the book actually was gripping.
What was missing was any real character conflict and growth (the most we got was a tissue-thin story about sibling rivalry). The relationships, while sweet, were unearned. The "plot" was overly complicated and unemotional. The difference between Breq's grief and a minor ploy to gain access to better space tunnels is very wide. The mystery was boring. The "heroics" were boring. By the end, I was just waiting for the damned thing to be done already.
I'm beginning to wonder if Leckie is a one and done, that she only had one great novel in her. I hope not. And yes, I'll pre-order her next book too because Ancillary 1 was that good.
This was a fantastic spin-off novel from Ann Leckie's excellent Ancillary Justice series. The story was set in the same world but set in a new region of human occupied space outside of the Radch and featured a completely new cast of characters. The good news is that this story was every bit as good in quality as the original series. Leckie's books have a weirdly sedate pace but there is plenty of intrigue, excellent world-building, interesting characters, mystery, and humor in the story so they always hold my full attention from start to finish.
The story was good and had plenty of depth to it. We followed Ingray, the daughter of a Hwae politician, as she travelled to the neighbouring system of Tyr to break out the son of a political rival from prison. Her goal was either to use Pahlad against his father to further her own families political aspirations or to use him against her own brother to further her own political aspirations within her own family! On top of that there is a few far reaching political situations that play a big role in the story. The first is that recent developments have created tension between the three big system governments of Hwae, Tyr, and Omkem. The second is the fact that a Conclave has been called by the Presgar to judge if the rebel Radchaai AI's should be granted sentient species status after their rebellion in the original trilogy.
It might sound a little dull but in reality is was quite exciting. Ingray was an easy character to root for and a very different sort of protagonist than Breq. She is younger and more sheltered and definitely not so kick-ass as Breq but she is smart and brave so she was just as easy to root for. If anything the secondary characters in Provenance were even stronger than those in the Ancillary Justice book. Everyone seemed intriguing and interesting! The plot itself moved at a sedate pace but was always engaging and filled with plenty of twists and turns.
I love the balance Leckie manages in her stories between the though provoking concepts she introduces and the the story and the characters themselves. We get plenty of good things to ponder but they never come at the expense of the actual story!
Another great thing in this series is the aliens. The are suitably alien and always very intriguing. We glimpsed the Presgar and the Rrrrr in the last series but in this book we got to learn a bit more about the Geck and I definitely found them super interesting.
All in all I thought this was a fantastic addition to the Ancillary Justice series and definitely hope Leckie returns to the world to write more stories. Branching out from the Radch actually managed to deepen the level of the already excellent world-building as we learned about new cultures and places as well as getting to see things from outside the Radchaai perspective.
Rating: 5 stars.
Audio Note: Adjoa Andoh was a fantastic here as she was in her performance of the original series. She was great with voices and accents and she got the tone of the story spot on. She was equally good performing the light and humorous moments as she was performing the more emotional ones.
Leckie’s first trilogy is amazing, which sets a high bar for this new book. I am thrilled to say Provenance delivered more than I expected (even with the high expectations set by the previous books). I love the unique world Leckie has crafted, the unconventional genderizations (or lack there of) that exists in some of the worlds and how that challenges readers to drop their own gender expectations and assignments. This continues in this new standalone novel but I also found it easier to read than the first time I read one of her books. I do still find myself defaulting gender, but it makes me aware that I do this, so I feel like that is a positive step. I just find it interesting how easy it is to mentally assign a gender to a character based on their traits or personality, not necessarily because their gender was ever stated.
All of that said, what I love most is the characters and the actual story or plot. And I feel like that is where this book excels most. I enjoyed the tighter focus on a smaller cast of characters and became very invested in Ingray’s story. She was adopted from a public creche (kind of like a public orphanage) by a very powerful woman. The way things work in Hwae, politicians have heirs, but it is not a birthright and therefor heirs must be named and named before they die or their position will no longer exist. Some choose to always name their biological children, but some, like Ingray’s mother, do not have children of their own and adopt a number of kids with the sole purpose of finding one worthy of being named their heir. Ingray has been pitted against her brother in this competition. They both have been raised to master politics and be ambitious, but have different strengths. I loved Ingray’s character. She is intelligent and resourceful and has a determination to follow through, even when the odds are stacked against her.
The story is exciting as well. Ingray’s brother seems destined to be named heir (no one even pretends otherwise). So, Ingray decides to try one daring move that will get her noticed, and perhaps be enough to get that edge she needs to be her mother’s choice. This mission she takes does not go exactly as she plans, and could backfire. But it also connects her with some interesting characters, and puts her in a very unique position as a result. I don’t want to say more than that because I think you should get the details from your own reading experience with this book. Just know it is a book full of fun and excitement, with a mystery or two as well.
As much as I loved the Ancillary series, I loved this one even more. It is a standalone in the same world, and I would be ecstatic to read more about the characters, but the ending was very satisfying. Even if I might like more, it doesn’t need anything additional. I feel like this novel has all of the strengths seen in Leckie’s earlier books, but without needing the adjustment to a POV that is one element of a hivemind, as well as a smaller set of central characters, this felt “easier” to read. Some of the complexities were eliminated, but yet those complexities for the world that we learned about in the trilogy still exist and enhance this book. I do not think the it is required to read the trilogy before reading this, I would guess it would stand well completely on its own.I also enjoyed getting the resolution in a single book instead of needing to wait for the next installment. I love series, but I can also appreciate the satisfaction from a great standalone as well. Highly recommend it.
She's written a classic comedy of manners, with added "adventure sprinkles." What fun! Lovely new protagonist, Ingray, whom I saw in my mind throughout the book as Ann Leckie herself! WOOT !
We start with a well-written "standard" sci-fi adventure setup. Interesting character, familiar Raadch universe, great stuff. Then things "start to go wrong" and before you know it, the pacing grows faster and more fun. Throughout the book, there is a lightness to the action and settings, wonderfully presented.
Terrific world-building, great prose. I kept thinking what a great London West-End play this would make!
Unfortunately, chapters 12-15 were awfully confused and long-winded, but don't worry. Nothing much happens there, anyway.
Chapter 16 picks up the action again, and very clever plotting, good dialogue and characters.
This continues on through to the last couple of chapters, in which an info-dump of "what happened" follow by "what might happen in the next book (perhaps)". A bit too much tell-not-shown for my tastes.
Still, a very good book. 3.5 stars.
12.0% ".... Wonderful. Leckie is such a fine author, and this is so much fun to read!"
20.0% "... Leckie's world-building and dialogue are wonderful. The setup in the first 1/4 of the book is perfect."
21% ... The front wall of the reception room was blue and green ruin glass, but the wall opposite the door where Ingray and Garal came in was all broad windows, plain and clear, looking out onto the rain-washed garden, moss-lined stones and silver-wet willows, three stone benches, swaths of flowers bent by the rain, their colors faded-looking in the gray light. The other walls were hung with slubbed silk, rough-woven in waving bands of red and yellow and green.
39.0% ".... what great fun this is! Complex and fast-paced and full of terrific dialogue!"
44.0% ".... this would make a great play in the West End of London! What fun!"
54.0% "... chapter 12 is a dull and confusing. Long-winded .... sadly and badly bogged down in dull dialogue"
75.0% "chapters 12-15 are hard going, very dull, useless plot, but then chapter 16 picks up the pacing quite a bit. Awesome"
This wasn't what I expected-- it's sort of Ann Leckie channeling Lois Bujold. But I found that I'm happy this (standalone?) lives in the same universe (after, for those wondering) as the Ancillary books. This one is possibly more charminghuman, if less effective-- if lacks the brutality of Justice.
I want her to keep doing more here. I wouldn't be surprised if the next book was a new story in the events shortly after this one.
**adding more to this, since it came out from a discussion;
I realized this reminds me a lot of Scalzi's book from this year, The Collapsing Empire . Usually, I would put Ann Leckie in a much higher class of writer than Scalzi, whose work I enjoy even as i deride it. The fact that this book is so similar gives me a host of weird feelings. My 5 star rating here comes bundled with a whole bunch of feelings, in general.
While I’ve read and enjoyed Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, I confess I probably wasn’t as enamored with it as the majority of readers. Despite the inventive and original ideas and the brilliant way there were executed, I really struggled with the pacing and there were also times where the narrative style made me feel completely out of my depth. And so when Provenance came out, I felt torn as to whether or not to read it. Eventually though, I was won over by the exciting premise as well as the general consensus that this was a lighter, more approachable story, and easier to get into compared to Ancillary Mercy.
For the most part, I felt this was true. The novel follows Ingray Aughksold, the adopted daughter of a prominent politician on the planet of Hwae, where power games are the norm. Our protagonist’s mother Natano has the choice of passing down her title to only one of her children, and Ingray desperately wants it to be her, though she knows the competition will be fierce. Her main rival is her clever and charming brother Danach, whom many already think has secured the inheritance, but unbeknownst to everyone, Ingray has one last-ditch card up her sleeve to play.
For you see, in Hwaean society there are certain historical relics called vestiges that are prized above all other treasures, and a thief named Pahlad Budrakim is said to have stolen some and hidden them away before being convicted and sent to “Compassionate Removal” (a punishment that involves a rather horrible form of exile). If Ingray can somehow free and convince Pahlad to reveal the location of the stolen vestiges, she can simply retrieve them and return home a hero. Sure, her plan may be half-baked and nothing short of a gamble, but pulling it off would certainly win her Natano’s favor.
Unfortunately, things go wrong almost immediately for Ingray as she arrives to retrieve Pahlad (after paying a hefty sum, which was almost all the money she had), only to find the prisoner delivered inside a suspension box. She also did not anticipate that the starship captain she hired to take them home would object to transporting a passenger in stasis, insisting that she wake the prisoner before he would agree to take them anywhere. So imagine Ingray’s dismay, when after they breach the suspension box, the person within comes to life in a bewildered state, claiming vehemently not to be Pahlad Budrakim at all.
Returning to the Imperial Radch universe, Provenance does share a few similarities with the Leckie’s debut trilogy, such as the gender-fluidity, lack of emphasis on sexual stereotypes, inclusion of many different alien races, and presence of sentient machines. However, as evidenced by the book’s description, the story also contains a more accessible and reader-friendly plotline, one that concerns itself more with intimate matters like family and friendship. This is just one of many reasons why I think this novel worked better for me on a personal level, in contrast to the way I felt about Ancillary Mercy which left me with a nagging sense of detachment to the characters.
Ingray, on the other hand, was someone I found easier to relate to, which in turn helped me gain a deeper appreciation for the world-building elements. While Leckie can sometimes go a little overboard with the details (something I also noticed from previous experiences with her work), the data dumps seemed much more manageable this time around, probably because almost all the world-building had direct consequences for our protagonist. Every background tidbit on the culture of the Hwaeans or the history of vestiges meant something to Ingray’s future, for example, resulting in a greater interest and investment on my part.
And yet, for all its strengths, Provenance still presented me with a few roadblocks. Its lighter tone notwithstanding, the story was slow to unfold and failed to build up much steam after the first hundred pages. After a promising start, everything just sort of…plateaued. To be fair, the story did interest me enough to keep reading to the end, but my feelings for the second half of the book were much more muted compared to the gripping excitement I felt in the first half.
It has occurred to me, of course, that Leckie could be one of those authors whose style and I simply don’t click. I’m always conflicted whenever I finish her novels, reeling in awe and admiration of the story’s themes and concepts, but at the same time wishing it could have been more. And that’s pretty much how I felt about Provenance in a nutshell. I think it’s an intriguing book that expands the universe, making it a must-read for Imperial Radch and Ann Leckie fans, but once again I’m on the fence.
A return to the universe of the Ancillary books but outside the Radch. The setting for most of the book is the planet Hwae whose people are known for their reverence of relics (called vestiges) from the destroyed civilization that they're descendants of. The story picks up with Ingray Aughskold, an ambitious upper-class woman's cunning plan to retrieve a convicted thief from off-world detention to reveal the location of vestiges e apparently stole. (The thief, Pahlad Budrakim is a third gender, neman, which uses e/em/eir as pronouns). But in retrieving Pahlad (or whoever she actually retrieves) Ingray gets involved in all sorts of intrigue including involvement with an alien species (the Geck) and interplanetary and local politics.
This is a clever and fun book with lots of characterization given to everyone and a very alien comedy of manners set up. (Well, it's also a murder mystery and a political thriller). The title gives the game away though: the story is superficially about the vestiges that the Hwae place so much importance in and their cherished ties to their own history and lineages. However, it's really about the meaning that comes from the origins of things and people and the value that is invested in them because of these things, and where value actually comes from.
It's rich and detailed and a lot of fun, pretty much like anything Leckie writes. Recommended.
Similar in some ways to her excellent Ancillary series, but different in others. I liked it but less than I did the series.
Provenance is certainly set in the same universe we are used to and comes with the same kinds of space travel, high tech communications and non gender characters. However this book is a much quieter read. It starts brilliantly with one of the main characters, Ingray, trying to smuggle a person between planets. Some of the situations experienced are comedic and some are tense and the characters involved are all well written and entertaining.
The middle section of the book, back on the home planet of Hwae, is much more political and it sometimes gets a little bogged down in explanations and theories. This is followed by a more exciting but slightly nonsensical finale which actually goes out with a fizzle, not a bang.
I am not deducting any stars for the narrator because that would not be fair to the book. However I do not recommend the audio. I did wonder why Ingray's brother had a Northern English accent and her Uncle sounded Indian. It was distracting:)
Nevertheless a good book, entertaining, well written and certainly worth reading!
Thoroughly enjoyed this space opera comedy of manners, set in the author's Radch universe.
It kind of reminded me of Lois McMaster Bujold a bit; though I think the worldbuilding is a step more complex than Bujold's, the emotional grip isn't as strong. Even so, the story carried me along as Ingray, our main character, goes from an ambitious but fairly clueless young adult to someone just grasping competence, and beginning to think strategically.
All the side characters were fun, and of course there was Leckie's trademark gender fluidity. I closed it with a smile, which is exactly what I demand of my entertainment reading these days.
Not going to say much, other than I enjoyed this and was frequently amused by all the culture collisions of different aliens, and the vestiges, and following Ingray around as she starts on a plan that very quickly transforms into other plans, which intersect with treaty violations, a murder investigation, theft, family shenanigans, planetary and interplanetary intrigue, and new relationships. And spider mechs. Lighter in tone than the Ancillary series (the fallout from which is referenced in this book) the action in this book takes place outside Raadch space, primarily at Hwae. Hwae has a fascinating culture, multiple genders, interesting family dynamics and a passion for physical objects tied to events and other important instances. Provenance was fun and different from Leckie's other books, but definitely enjoyable.
Like many, I loved Leckie’s trilogy and looked forward to this new instalment. The novel is set in the same universe but focuses on new players that have nothing to do with the events of the other books. Additionally, the style is different too, which is perhaps due to the personality of our narrator, Ingray. Here we have an unassuming protagonist jostled about by ‘stronger’ characters, thrown into deep waters, some of her choosing.
It took me a while to get into this book, but after getting accustomed to it, I actually enjoyed it very much. Leckie offers us a whole spectrum of genders and races, some recognisable, but dancing to a new tune. I kept thinking of the title, Provenance, and how well it is suited. Everything touches on this notion, on different levels.
Provenance was my first Leckie space opera. I truly enjoyed The Raven Tower, which is what led me to this book, and will get the Ancillary Justice off my TBR in the future. But until then, Provenance. This book was a bit like a Cozy Mystery in space. A resourceful but very average protagonist that must rely on her persistence and wits to survive and solve the murder mystery that becomes the driver of the story. But of course it's about much more. Family, friendship, finding one's place, politics, intrigue, unusual aliens. I enjoy Leckie's style and her characters and her spot-on dialogue. Don't expect space battles and pew pews but you can look forward to mistaken identities, intergalactic politics and a woman at the center of it all, just trying to do her best.
Some nice plot-twists early on. At first the story comes off as a heist story, then moves into a murder mystery with a conspiracy plot and... moves on. Leckie's world building is great. So complex and imaginative. And the plot just keeps making turns and twists and all of a sudden you are off into a totally different direction.
A little spoilerish from here on out...
I wonder if there will be a sequel? If so, I hope besides Ingray we will also see more of Tic and Garal. And the ambassador. She was a hoot. Spider or blob... The blob was awesome, by the way. She reminded me a little of one of the translators in the original trilogy. Comic relief, a bit scary, a lot weird and with deep insights. What great personalities Leckie creates!
Did those hairpins have some deeper meaning? I mostly just found them annoying. Are they supposed to showcase Ingray's partial ineptitude at life? I am still trying to make up my mind about her. She's not a very homogenous character. So insecure on one side and so shrewd on the other. But maybe that does fit with her upbringing.
Certainly a book with lots of food for thought. Only 4 stars though, as I got bored (a lot) in the middle. I want some Serbet, you can keep the Poik! Auto-buy for the next book, if there is one...
You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.
All rise as bestselling author Ann Leckie enters the court with her new novel Provenance! After her greatly appreciated Imperial Radch trilogy, kicked things off with Ancillary Justice, the author brings us this brand new space opera story filled with politics for fans to rejoice at. In Provenance, the story follows a young woman, Ingray Aughskold as she takes great means to get her hands on something that could help her make a name out of herself in her family. It doesn’t take long before you realize that her actions are risky and could put her in a sticky situation if not handled properly, especially if things don’t go exactly as she planned it. But when do things ever go as we plan, right? As you follow her around you’ll come to be submerged into a whole universe that takes a life of its own in a matter of seconds. Provenance is far from being anything like some of the debut novels out there. This is the work of someone who’s been there and done that.
The best part of Provenance lies in its world-building. It takes a lot of your time to describe the political atmosphere and the history that revolves around it all. If you’re not looking for inter-planetary commentary on the relationships and current climate behind planets and the people, you’ll be greatly disappointed in this one. Ann Leckie does a marvelous job in exploring the microscopic impact of key individuals and their role on a much more grander level, think planet-sized. Every move is crucial and scrutinized by every individual and that’s where you’ll find your source of enjoyment with Provenance. It is a novel that is heavily political and even attempts to hide current politics and culture within its narrative. While the story is angled to focus on Ingray’s struggles and motivations, her mere position and role in her family puts her in a spot that makes everything she does or doesn’t do of the utmost importance. In fact, she resonates as someone quite important and emanates a scent that screams of a can of worms, and only as you read on that you get to understand what’s up, or even why certain things happen.
This isn’t a bad series at all, but I still did have a couple issues with it. First of all, I had a huge issue connecting with most of the characters, especially Ingray. From the very beginning she sounded off extremely incompetent and her plans never really captured my attention. She often seemed to be left in background compared to other characters in terms of importance on a political level, which is completely understandable, since she has no talent in that field, but it just took away a lot of my interest in investing any emotions in her. She also often sounded whinny (for me, anyways) and filled with questions, which isn’t exactly something I felt like adapting to as I was reading this. For a novel that relied a lot on politics, it didn’t feel right to have her lead me through it all. My second issue lies in the fact that the politics and whole story behind vestiges and their value wasn’t very tantalizing for me. While it managed to satisfy my reading experience, it definitely didn’t blow me away. But the whole world-building, from piloted mechs to alien races, definitely made up for it all and kept this book fun to read.
Provenance visits political turmoil during interstellar conflict the right way. Ann Leckie keeps the issues at hand understandable and succeeds in using them efficiently to build a politics-heavy story about “power, theft, privelege, and birthright. In Provenance, characters are interesting, but its world-building is even better. What saddened me however is that it doesn’t exactly strive towards exploring new ideas like a lot of classic science-fiction stories are able to do. It is one thing that I absolutely love about the genre and always look forward to, but Provenance sticks rather to a formula that does science-fiction in a much more grander and safer way by tackling space opera in a much more interesting way. I do however hear that Ann Leckie’s bestselling trilogy is a whole other thing and look forward to checking it out in the near future. For those who are looking to try someone a bit different, a bit heavier, but coherent if you can follow the author’s rhythm, then Provenance is a great novel to check out. Fans of Ann Leckie will also not find themselves greatly disappointed and will be pleased to have another fantastical and brilliantly descriptive novel to devour.
I’m not a sci-fi fan—or at least, I’m not a fan of stories involving spaceships—but because the genre is fantasy-adjacent I do try one now and then. This seemed more up my alley than most (award-winning female author, plot- rather than setting-driven), and it does have a fun plot. However, there’s also a coldness to its world and character relationships that I associate strongly with sci-fi, and a lack of description and detail, particularly around the gender-related aspects of its worldbuilding.
The story centers on a young woman, Ingray, who’s concocted a wild heist plan in response to some family drama and then gets caught up in a murder investigation and an attempted invasion of her home planet. While it takes awhile to get going, and around 100 pages in I considered DNFing, the plot picks up as it goes and the last third in particular is high-tension fun, with a climax and ending that hit all the right notes. It’s a quick read—the hardcover looks like large print even though officially it isn’t, so the pages fly—and there were a lot of humorous, down-to-earth moments that I enjoyed: the jaded and sidelined ambassador who doesn’t want to do any work; the low-quality Google-translate-like device that makes a couple of characters sound bizarre to the point of incomprehensibility when speaking their native language; the society so obsessed with collecting souvenirs that Ingray devotes actual thought to how to get a valuable one in the midst of a hostage situation. Leckie’s dialogue is quite good, with different speech patterns for people from different cultures (though thankfully, most of the characters are human). And the way the various societies try and fail to understand one another is enjoyable to read about, though the anthropologists get a very raw deal.
Ingray is also a fun lead, who comes across as an ordinary person over her head but rising to the challenge, without being a generic blank-slate type. She’s good-hearted and generous as well as impulsive, and she gets overwhelmed and exhausted in the way real people do. That said, while Ingray and many of the secondary characters are endearing, they’re not particularly complex and physical descriptions nearly nonexistent; I don’t believe anyone even has a hair color.
But what especially strikes me is the unaddressed relational coldness of both Ingray’s life and her society. Ingray was abandoned as a baby, and “fostered” from young childhood by a distant and unemotional politician, who took in several children and then pitted them against each other in competition for her affections and legacy. One sibling ultimately succumbed to the pressure and left, apparently little-regretted by anyone, while Ingray’s remaining brother is a bully. Hardly a loving home, and though now apparently in her mid-20s Ingray doesn’t seem to have ever had any close emotional bond with anyone else either. But this is treated as a fairly unimportant aspect of her psychology—yes, she’ll go to some lengths to impress her mother, but overall she’s incredibly well-adjusted for someone who seems to have spent her entire life without any real love or support. Which I would generally expect to result in a sociopath, or at least a character whose story is all about learning to trust and bond with people, which Ingray’s is not.
Her whole society actually mirrors this. While all the characters are adults, no one is ever mentioned to be married or partnered, or to have ever been or want to be married or partnered—though I don’t get the sense this is a deliberate choice, because the book still teases love interests for its two main characters in the usual way and treats this as a crucial component of a happy ending. Who knows where children come from in this world, but for unclear reasons, more seem to be abandoned or given away than raised by their biological parents. Now, not all human societies place primacy on the same relationships—ours just happens to prioritize romance and parental love—but Leckie isn’t exploring that either, because there’s no other type of relationship than the Hwaeans value instead. Everyone is apparently just a lonely little island, but this is never acknowledged or addressed.
There’s also a lack of worldbuilding around the third gender Hwaean society recognizes. “Nemen” seem as common as men and women and use e/em/eir pronouns, and that is literally all we ever learn about nemen. What do they look like? What are the expectations around them, in the workplace, the family, social life, the media? What are the stereotypes they might embrace or react against? What is their anatomy? Can they reproduce? Leckie passes up all opportunities to explain, including the scene in which the main neman character shows up naked, and a moment when Ingray reflects that she probably couldn’t pass as a neman for long (why not?). They’re a blank, despite being all over this story. (Apparently people in this society also choose their gender upon coming of age, which also isn’t explored on either an individual or societal level, but then that’s a very minor element here.)
Despite those odd elements, this is a basically fun book with an enjoyable plot and characters. It hasn’t changed my preference for avoiding sci-fi, but no one has time to read everything, so that’s okay.
Eeeeeeeee! Leckie has followed up her record-breaking Imperial Radch series with a fun, fast novel of power and birthright! A young woman must regain status and power to save her world, but she needs the help of a thief to do it. INSERT CAPERS HERE. There’s a prison planet, priceless artifacts, political turmoil, heists, and interstellar conflict. It has all the ingredients needed to make this an amazing book! Not that you needed me to tell you Ann Leckie is amazing. Run, don’t walk, to pick it up!
I'm a bit disappointed in this one. It definitely doesn't measure up to the Ancillary trilogy. I started off really liking this book - until about half way through, and then things took a completely different turn into tedious politics and a long, drawn out, and contrived resolution to situation at the end of the book. I did not like the main character. I wish I had a dollar every time she cried or mentioned her hairpins (I'd have $500 at least). The hairpins were mentioned so often that I thought they would have some kind of importance in the story - like maybe they had some kind of tech built into them or could be used as weapons, but they didn't. There was no importance to them whatsoever except to annoy the reader. I did like Garal and Tic, and the part of the book that involved them - maybe there will be another novel that follows them and gives more information into what happened when Garal was in compassionate release.
PS - the pronoun situation drove me crazy. Sometimes they would use "E" and then in the next sentence they would use "he" - I never figured out why sometimes the gender neutral pronoun was being used to reference a person and why that same person would sometimes be called he/she
It was neat seeing a new and entirely different culture in this universe. Leckie makes aliens so very alien - they always capture my interest. And this was a fun story - basically a heist caper/murder mystery in a complex setting.
Ahoy there mateys! I have been a fan of Ann Leckie ever since I read her debut novel. And what a doozy that one was. It still be one of me all-time favourites ever. In fact, I featured and gushed about this author in me Broadside No. 16 due to provenance coming out. And now I finally read her newest book. Hooray!!
I must start by saying that I loved it. The characters, writing, plot, and world are so well done. While the story about Ingray was fabulous and plot-twisty and stellar and just plain fun, what I really took from the book was not the story at all but the juxtaposition between the society of the Hwaeans in this book and the Radchaai in her imperial radch trilogy. This was not me intention but, well, this aspect provided me myriad entertainments.
Ye see this novel is technically a standalone that is set in the same world as the trilogy. I absolutely love what I would consider companion books that exist in a world but showcase other aspects and cultures of said world - like in me reviews of the Culture books or the Craftworld books. So this was a mind-puzzle gift that I found fascinating. If ye haven't read the first book in the trilogy, ancillary justice, then the next section will likely not make sense to ye. And I suggest ye read that novel before reading this one because of said paragraphs below. So while there are no plot spoilers ahead, I will be doing some mild comparisons and random thoughts so if ye keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . .
- I adored that the Radchaai were the protagonists of the trilogy and of course considered themselves the highest-cultured beings of the universe. And in this book we showcase the Hwaean culture who believes they are superior. Both cultures spend time pointing out how certain habits of other societies proved they were uncouth. That being said, both cultures also like to see themselves as being open-minded, which I found to be hysterical.
- For example there is a Radchaai diplomat in this novel. Though a very minor character, the diplomat was used perfectly. The author highlights the hypocrisy of the Radchaai in terms of the person appointed for the diplomatic job and also in the diplomat's attitude towards her job. Yet in certain situations the diplomat takes her tasks extremely seriously and is an important component to how the plot progresses and is resolved. It was awesome!
- We get to see multiple cultures in all the books. Geck, Radchaai, Rrrrr, Omken, and others. So very different and complex and fun. In particular the use (or non-use) of terms of gender vary by culture and language and the complexities rock! The mistakes are sometimes very funny and yet somehow also insightful into how gender is dealt with in this day and age.
- I also adore the different types of justice systems portrayed and the intricacies in how twisted interplanetary law can be. In Tyr Siilas there is a fine based system. Hwae seems slightly more like the British judicial system. Also how all of the cultures deal with the treaty with the Presger is portrayed so well in all of the novels. Citizenship was never such an interesting conundrum.
- I loved how the Radchaai have their memorial pins and the Hwae have their vestiges. I have to admit that I am more partial to a memorial pin. However the use of the vestiges in this book were central to the story and a hoot besides. I kinda want the Radchaai pins and the tourist vestiges.
- Speaking of tourism, Ann Leckie is awesome about writing about tourist places that are normal for the regular population but that I would totally visit. From bridges in the trilogy to Eswae Parkland in this book, I am fascinating and wish I could visit. I would sail the stars just to see the ruin glass hills. If only . . .
Me writing skills are not good enough to get into more particulars and I certainly don't want to give away spoilers. But this novel has been lingering in me head and heart and thoughts. I suggest if ye haven't read Ann Leckie's work then ye should witness for yerself the magic of her writing.
Set in the same world as her universally praised, award-winning debut Ancillary Justice, I admit I was a bit leery going in. I just didn't get the first book of the trilogy and thought that it was more sci-fi for sci-fi purists. A tourist like myself inevitably felt lost. I imagine it akin to watching Avengers: Infinity War and wondering what all the fuss is about, when the last codpiece and cape movie you saw was Adam West's Batman.
It's a bit of a whodunnit, meets caper, with a sprinkling of intergalactic tension, spiralling around our protagonist Ingray Aughskold. You don't need to have completed the Imperial Radch trilogy to enjoy this and thankfully it's a more approachable stand-alone story. More Ant-man than Avengers.
*Read as Luis as played by Michael Pena in Ant-Man So it starts with a prison break right? It's supposed to be Pahlad Budrakin, who's totally going to be the lynchpin to a larger plot that's like a swing for the fences plan that's going to get Ingray's hoity-toity foster mother to take notice. Can't fail right? But it turns out e's not Pahlad. Hold up - see Pahlad is a neman who identifies as neither male or female so e's pronouns are different. So Ingray is in over her head. And then, get this, an intergalactic dignitary is killed and then representatives from remote worlds begin to pop up on Hwae. Things are blowing up down there. *end scene
And then a wonderfully intermixed exploration of provenance. On whether where you come from matters as much as where you are now and who you claim to be. How malleable that notion is when it comes to identity vs artifacts.
Loved exploring the new cultures and storylines in this scifi world that Leckie has created. I enjoyed the protagonist but probably not as much as Breq. Very cool buildup, with great small cast of characters. Very initmate in style and tale as compared to her previous trilogy. Funny, poignant and stimulating which was all contributed by her great writing. I did feel like around the 2/3 mark it just lost steam and plot. Became a little too dialogue centric without really contributing to the plot. Decent ending and I dont think we've seen the end of this world. If you havent read the 1st trilogy I'd probably start there. Book 1 of that series is still by far the best book shes ever written.
This is an entertaining sci-fi mystery/adventure set in the same universe as Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy. I really enjoyed getting to learn about other societies of the universe, especially as the author continued to explore different approaches to gender. I loved Ingray, the protagonist, as well as many of the supporting characters. Ann Leckie's writing does a good job of balancing humor and a more serious tone when it is called for (I did also appreciate that death and danger were treated as serious, potentially traumatizing things to encounter). However, the thing that really elevates the storytelling, and had me laughing out loud at multiple points, is Adjoa Andoh's narration. Her voice and delivery are perfect for the somewhat dry humor. I don't do a lot of audiobooks, but I'm always happy to listen to one of hers!
It’s good that I did not expect Provenance, Ann Leckie’s most recent book, to be a repeat of the brilliance of her Ancillary Justice trilogy. It is not. It’s more of a mystery wrapped in politics. One professional review I read described it as a “cozy mystery.” It’s not cozy at all and that review is yet another example why I rarely use professional reviews as a guide to select my reading. Unfortunately, I found the book slow-moving with a rather boring, uninteresting main character and a disorganized plot involving alien politics that weren’t described clearly. I finished the book mostly out of respect for Ann Leckie’s earlier—and hopefully, future—brilliance.
Ingray Aughskold is one of two adopted children of Netano Aughskold, the matriarch of a powerful political family from Hwae. She has to compete with her brother, Danach, to win the approval of her mother and thus be named her heir. In order to do this, she has gambled on a scheme that, if it fails, will leave her penniless, scorned and without a future. However, if she succeeds, she will best her brother and possibly become the new leader of a powerful political family. Her scheme does go awry almost immediately and Ingray is pulled into a plot that involves powerful politicians on her home world and others, along with the alien species the Geck.
For me, this book starts out very slowly. Everything is told from Ingray’s perspective and Ingray is not a particularly vivid character. She’s the underdog, the inept, the less-favored of her mother’s children. She’s not so much unlikeable as boring as white bread. She cries a lot and doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor. She also kept losing her hairpins and I got very annoyed with how often her hairpins (missing or placed appropriately in her hair) were mentioned. I much preferred the mysterious and sometimes sarcastic Captain Uisine and the mysterious Pahlad Budrakim. None of the characters are as complex and well-written as in Leckie’s earlier books. None of them come across as particularly distinct.
The mystery/political intrigue did not draw me in at all. Aside from uninteresting characters, the plot isn’t clearly defined and I couldn’t quite get a grip on it. Is it a mystery? Is it a political drama? I fault Leckie for not describing the politics of the worlds clearly. Four different worlds are involved: Hwae, Tyr Siilas, Byeit and Omkem—and I’m actually not sure if Tyr Siilas is a separate world or a city on one of those worlds. The Geck, a non-human alien species, also makes an appearance. Leckie’s world building isn’t thorough enough for me to understand completely the differences between these people. This is a serious problem for me as the politics of these worlds are vitally important to the plot. Not much happens in the book; it’s pages of tedious dialogue strung together by a few bits of excitement. The last event of the book, which Ingray inserts herself into a heroically-I’m-rolling-my-eyes kind of way, results in an ending that is entirely predictable and not at all satisfactory. There’s also a kind of awkward romance that crops up between Ingray and another character who isn’t around enough for you to really care about—especially when Ingray herself is so annoying you can barely bring yourself to give a shit about her. The second awkward romance is between two other major characters and it’s just like…why? I mean, the book doesn’t spend enough time on them for me to really care/root for/be interested in their romantic attachments. Ann Leckie, please stop trying to force romances between your characters. The chemistry between Breq and Seivarden in The Ancillary Justice series was so good because it developed naturally. I didn’t have to read sentences like, “And suddenly it mattered very much to Ingray how Taucris would look at her, when she turned to face her again” (222).
A lot in the plot hinges on the idea of “vestiges,” historical artifacts very important to the Hwaeans. It seems these vestiges are what we would call souvenirs—postcards from a town you visited, an invitation from an important party—material objects you would keep for personal and historical reasons. A lot of what we keep in museums Hwaeans would consider vestiges—The Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, Great Britain’s Coronation Chair (actually kept in Westminster Abbey), a pen used to sign important documents, etc. These vestiges are very important to the Hwaeans and if you are politically powerful, you should have an impressive collection of them. The showdown at the end of the novel involves the most important Hwaean vestiges and a somewhat tiresome discussion of what’s more important: the objects themselves or what they symbolize. The discussion is tiresome only because of the characters involved and in the end, it’s a meaningless discussion because it doesn’t affect the actions of Ingray or other characters.
I also want to mention the third gender that Leckie introduces. It’s annoying as hell and distracting because Leckie so gracelessly shoves the reader’s face in it and yet never explains it—either directly through exposition or by a conversation between characters. These characters are humans and as humans, we (usually) only possess male or female parts. But in this novel, there are “nemans,” who are neither male or female (or both?) and “e” is used in place of “he/she” and “eir” and “em” used for possessive pronouns. I don’t know how “nemans” came to exist. One character is mentioned as having delayed choosing her name, thus her adulthood, for a long time because she was unsure and when her old name is mentioned, the non-specific “they” is used but after she has a new name, she’s a “she.” So…what the hell? There are a lot of “nemans” in the novel, and Ingray’s relative is one, her “nuncle.” “Nuncle” comes across as male to me, but apparently e’s not. E’s a neman. If Leckie intended to have a lot of nemans in her novel, she should have somehow figured out how to explain what they are—are they transgender? Are they deliberately not picking a gender? What’s going on? I have to say I spent a lot of time learning to read “e” and “eir” and “em” the way Leckie meant, and not as typos. She complicated the issue by insisting on using “eir” when a non-gender specific word (“the”) could have been used instead. I do wonder if the nemans are Leckie’s way of making a political point about transgender people because the nemans seem awfully overt to me (an artificial designation of a certain group of people) instead of occurring naturally. In her earlier trilogy of books, the Radch people/culture isn’t explained by long passages of exposition. While reading, you gradually learn about their religion, their customs, the fact that they do not consider gender to be important. It’s skillful writing. However, that level of skill and ingenuity is not present. I learned very little about these worlds and these people and none of them (aside from the Geck, because they are a holdover from the earlier books) makes much of an impression on me.
Because Leckie’s earlier novels are so incredibly good, it’s unrealistic to expect her to produce yet another amazing novel, or the first of another amazing trilogy. However, I would have rather learned more about the people and worlds she introduced in the earlier novels than these worlds and characters who aren’t a part of the Radch civilization (that is, the Radch never conquered them) and don’t expand the universe that she already created. Provenance is not terrible, but neither the plot nor the characters are all that fascinating and complex. My reaction to reading this book is the exact opposite of reading the books in the trilogy: with Provenance I would sigh with frustration to see how many pages I had left to wade through; with the earlier ones I was horrified at how quickly the pages dwindled. Provenance merely makes me want to pull Ancillary Justice down from my shelf and read it for the fourth time.