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The Tea Master and the Detective

(Universe of Xuya)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  4,492 ratings  ·  766 reviews
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of ...more
Kindle Edition, 96 pages
Published April 2nd 2018 by JABberwocky Literary Agency (first published March 31st 2018)
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Aliette I would like to write more about them but there's nothing definite yet! (I have ideas but I also have a bunch of contractual deadlines totally unrelat…moreI would like to write more about them but there's nothing definite yet! (I have ideas but I also have a bunch of contractual deadlines totally unrelated to this--to a certain extent it depends on sales of this as novellas are a tough market) (less)
Aliette Just a quick note: I don't price the books, my publisher does! Subterranean specialises in limited hardback editions, hence the price. (the ebook edit…moreJust a quick note: I don't price the books, my publisher does! Subterranean specialises in limited hardback editions, hence the price. (the ebook edition is indeed much cheaper)(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  4,492 ratings  ·  766 reviews

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In the age of fantasy books of ridiculous lengths--why, hello, Way of Kings--and series that may never be finished--ah-hem, George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss--I've rediscovered my love of novellas. de Bodard has written an intriguing, sure to be award-nominated novella about a mind-ship hired by a brilliant, drug-addicted woman who wants to retrieve a dead body for study. Naturally, it turns out that it was no mere space-accident that caused the untimely death. When the shipmind, The Shado ...more
Lois Bujold
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF-mystery readers

This novella reads like the lovechild of Sherlock Holmes and the Ship Who Sang, dropped into a wormhole inside a space capsule made of Asian history. My first sample of de Bodard: while it is a part, or at least inside, of a longer series, and I suspect the world-building might make for a more leisurely unpacking if one started at the beginning novel, I thought this story worked just fine as a stand-alone.

Now I want to hunt up the proper beginning.

(Also, it turns out I like the new way of sellin
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Winner of a well-deserved Nebula award for best novella of 2018. 4.5 stars! Review first posted on Fantasy LiteratureFantasy Literature:

The Tea Master and the Detective, a novella nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo awards, is a delightful revisiting of the legendary Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson … if both were Asian women, and Watson was a genetically modified human that is the brains and heart of a transport warship. It’s set in Aliette de Bodard’s UNIVERSE OF XUYA ― also nominated for a H
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, 2017-books
The Shadow's Child, the brain of a mindship, is shellshocked and brewing teas for safer space travel when a consulting detective shows up at her door...

This was a Netgalley find and one of the few Netgalley finds that didn't immediately feel like a homnework assignment from a hated teacher.

Set in an asteroid belt with a Vietnamese-influenced culture, The Tea Master and the Detective has its roots loosely planted in A Study In Scarlet. Long Chau hires The Shadow's Child to brew her tea and take h
Gail Carriger
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, reviewed
This particular novella was a mix of Sherlock Holmes (only way better written than Doyle and with female main characters), McCaffery's The Ship Who... series, and Feist & Wurts Daughter of the Empire series. 

Bodard is a master of artfully invested world building. She turns this story into a lyrical journey into space, as if the words themselves are overlaid with the serenity of a tea ceremony. Reading it felt restful and ritualized. 

What is that st6ory? Well, a Brewer of Serenity (who also happe
K.J. Charles
A glorious spaceship/detective story in which the Holmes-style Consulting Detective is a woman in a Vietnamese-influenced future culture, and Watson is a traumatised sentient starship. Absolutely terrific novella, packing in wonderful ideas and images and a huge amount of humanity. Plus, what a lovely cover. I hope we will get a lot more of these, I wolfed it down and relished every sentence.
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2019-shelf
I'm actually pretty impressed with this one but I have one major complaint...

I feel like I'm missing a LOT of worldbuilding nuance here. I've never read any of her Xuya novellas and I feel the lack.

Sure, the whole mystery in space surrounded my Mindships that are pretty awesome is all pretty awesome, but the rather odd bits of Tea and special brews feel like they need a lot of backstory. Otherwise, I'm stuck just thinking about Ann Leckie's Raddich series. And maybe that's kind of a side-jab.

I f
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taut, well-written, with excellent character work. It *is* a Holmes pastiche but it’s a lot more than that in practice. (In fact I think approaching it as a pastiche risks blinding a reader to the work’s own independent virtues, but the debt is there.)
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Sherlock Holmes retelling I always wanted and now have
Apr 27, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If the mystery plot of this one had come together a little bit more strongly, I'd put this at 4.5 stars. I absolutely LOVED the characters, world, and themes of this! Particularly the concept of mindships and how they were integrated into the story really delivered for me ...more
Skye Kilaen
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-genre-scifi
Mini-review: A tea expert who’s a sentient ship with trauma + an abrasive clever detective = Watson and Holmes retelling in a Vietnamese-influenced space future. Thoughtful and kind, with fantastic worldbuilding. I would definitely read another story with these characters. If this is on your TBR, move it up!
Sci-fi mystery with an enigmatic detective and a somewhat neurotic shipmind going into deep space in search of a corpse.

Delightfully quick read. Well written. I liked the chemistry between the two main characters. But I couldn't shake the feeling that much of the worldbuilding is happening somewhere else.

And indeed, this is part of a series. Though Goodreads is a bit confusing about that, as it mentions 41 other works in this universe, not all of them having a discrete GR entry.
In the book itsel
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An update of A Study in Scarlet in the author's Xuya universe with the part of Watson being played by a war-traumatized shipmind and with a female consulting detective.

There's not much more to it than that; de Bodard's Xuya universe continues to delight and most versions of Sherlock Holmes demonstrate how compelling the broad outlines of these characters are.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Vietnamese-flavored Sherlock Holmes IN SPACE, except that Sherlock's a woman and Watson's a spaceship. This novella should have been right up my alley, but I didn't care for the style or the slow pace, and the characters just didn't gel with me. Not my thing, but maybe it's yours.

Also, damn it, one arrives at deductions by deducing, not by deducting.

E-arc from NetGalley and Subterranean Press.
a Vietnamese-inspired futuristic space opera, reimagined from Sherlock Holmes following a mind ship and a detective on a deep space investigation.

i really enjoyed the characters! definitely get the Sherlockian inspiration. the mystery plot itself isn't super engaging and with it being only a little over 90 pages, it's fairly easy to see where it's going, but the world-building and characterization is truly where this story shines. the world-building is so cool and unique and i loved how the stor
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: stars-3-5, r2018

Not really sure what to think of this one... A re-telling of A Study in Scarlet sounded exactly like my kind of thing, especially since set in a different universe.

The world building was indeed fascinating, as was the notion of shipminds and mind altering concoctions to alleviate space-travel. The Shadow’s Child’s voice was engaging and made me want to find out what was its story. The mystery was a good one and introduced the detective, someone who is of course rude, eccentric, and yes, bril
Sherlock in space! Discharged from military service after a traumatic incident in deep space, the mindship The Shadow's Child is barely making ends meet blending drugs to her clients' individual specifications. Then infuriating, brilliant, and already-drugged-to-the-gills Long Chau hires her to find a corpse in deep space for a study in decomposition. This plan goes off the rails when they realize the corpse they picked up is probably not dead from natural causes...The duo seek to solve the case ...more
The Captain
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .

The cover drew me in and three things convinced me to read this book:

1) I previously read some of the author’s short stories and loved her writing style;
2) It is a Subterranean Press book and they do great work; and
3) One of the characters is a mindship . . .

This mindship, named The Shadow’s Child, is not just any ship. It was previously a military ship who physic
My first foray into the "silkpunk" (which is to East Asian antiquity what steampunk is to Victorian England) genre, and I must say I loved it! "The Tea Master and the Detective" is a wonderful pastiche of Sherlock Holmes in space - which is this nerd's wet dream!

In a little less than a hundred pages, Aliette de Bobard created a fascinating world where powerful families rule, not unlike Imperial Japan, and ships have living minds. One such AIs - The Shadow's Child - has the shipmind version of PT
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The world is chaotic and without sense. But in the smallest of spheres it's sometimes possible to straighten things out: to make it seem as though everything means something.

This small sphere of a novella was a most intriguing start to the series. The parallels to Sherlock Holmes are neither downplayed or built up to be intrusive, but instead provide a framework for a story set in an otherwise completely alien setting. This being a novella, the worldbuilding is present but necessarily minimal -
Notes on 2nd reading: As seems to be common with me and Aliette de Bodard stories, I loved it even more on the second read. I continue to be completely enamored of the characters, settings, and stories in the Xuya universe.

Original review: I have a soft spot for creative Holmes & Watson retellings, and The Tea Master and the Detective is certainly that. The Watson character being an AI (one of the spaceship Minds, who are some of my favorite Xuya characters) was a cool touch, since it meant that
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful. I loved the characters and I would like a dozen sequels.
The Tea Master and The Detective is basically a reimagining of Sherlock Holmes – only Watson is now a sentient spaceship traumatized by the death of her previous crew, and Holmes is a bitchy scholar with a strong sense of morality.

This book has so many amazing things going for it. Its take on space travel is an immensely poetic one, more akin to seafaring than most science fiction usually portrays. (Think Disney’s Treasure Planet!) De Bodard’s lyrical and yet functional prose shines in this tigh
I've been hit-or-miss on de Bodard's short fiction before, but this novella was alright. It's an oddly Sherlockian futuristic premise, with our traumatised war veteran 'Watson' being cast as a ship's AI-human construct mind called The Shadow's Child, retired from military service and consigned to brewing tea for humans. And the consulting detective, with her deductive reasoning, is a stern woman dosed to the gills with drugs administered by her bots.

It's an interesting setting, this odd couple r
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novella was a fun, very fast-paced female-Sherlock-Holmes-in-space story with a murder mystery (or was it?) and cool world-building, told from the perspective of a sentient space ship.

Even though it was a really enjoyable read, I found myself wishing the author had turned it into a full-length novel instead. The characters' back stories, their traumatic, mysterious pasts and current relationships, as well as the setting deserved a more intricate treatment, a slower pace, and more resolutio
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
3.5 Stars
This is a unique science fiction novella that crosses a Sherlock-esque female character with sentient ship technology. I highly recommend drinking tea while reading this one.
Ship AI (or AIs) seem to be a fad nowadays. The novel is interesting but I am not sure the title reflects the content. It started strong but apparently there's very little detective work here. Also, I felt like this might not work best as a standalone. ...more
Yen N
Dec 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"There's nothing out there. No revelations. Nothing to worship. But nothing to fear, either."

A vietnamese inspired space opera that follows a mind ship and a detective on a deep space investigation. The unique setting and story arc of the mind ship were my favorite parts.
Bogi Takács
Review coming soon IY"H. Can I get a sequel?

Source of the book: Bought with my own money
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When you first read the title of this Hugo-nominated story, you’d think you might have a general inkling of what the heck this story might be about. And boy, howdy, are you in for a lovely surprise.

Spray some saline into your third eye and quaff your headiest blend of oolong for this Far Eastern-influenced trip into the strange and strangely wonderful world of shipminds, drug bots, and murder.
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Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris. She has won three Nebula Awards, an Ignyte Award, a Locus Award, a British Fantasy Award and four British Science Fiction Association Awards, and was a double Hugo finalist for 2019 (Best Series and Best Novella).

Her most recent book is Fireheart Tiger (, a sapphic romantic fantasy inspired by pre colonial Vietnam, where a diplomat princess must

Other books in the series

Universe of Xuya (5 books)
  • Seven of Infinities
  • Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight
  • The Citadel of Weeping Pearls
  • On a Red Station, Drifting

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