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A Memory Called Empire

(Teixcalaan #1)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  6,734 ratings  ·  1,252 reviews

In a war of lies she seeks the truth

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare travels to the Teixcalaanli Empires interstellar capital, eager to take up her new post. Yet when she arrives, she discovers her predecessor was murdered. But no one will admit his death wasnt accidental and she might be next.

Now Mahit must navigate the capitals enticing yet deadly halls of power, to discover

Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published April 4th 2019 by Tor (first published March 26th 2019)
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Kai Yes, but it is primarily a fish-out-of-water story, so if you want a focus on romance, you probably won't find that here. If you're avoiding romance,…moreYes, but it is primarily a fish-out-of-water story, so if you want a focus on romance, you probably won't find that here. If you're avoiding romance, you won't be hit with too much of it, although this is politics and relationships permeate everything.(less)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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ARC provided by the publisherTor Booksin exchange for an honest review.

Easily one of the cleverest sci-fi debuts Ive read so far.

A Memory Called Empire is Arkady Martines debut novel and the first installment in the Teixcalaan series. Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in Teixcalaan only to find out that the previous ambassador from the same mining station as hers has died. Contrary to her belief, nobody wants to admit that his death wasnt an accident, and now its up to Mahit to uncover whos
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of sci-fi mysteries and space operas
With reservations.

What do you mean, what do I mean? There's something about it--as good, as inclusive, as remarkable as it is--that just fails to miss me. Possibly it's the empire-building genre. At any rate, this is probably what Alastair Reynolds was going for in The Prefect, only this was so much more tightly plotted, with better characterization, that it was far more satisfying. Perhaps my reservations are due to lingering disaffection, because Martine does exactly what I expected from
Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
[2.5/5 stars] I have to take a moment to explain how excited I was to dive into this book. I was expecting rich culture, a complex plotline, and fascinating characters. And while I think all those components made an appearance, they werent nearly as amped up as I was hoping theyd be.

In fact, 85% of the story was pure dialogue and explanations. It TOLD me about this cool alien world and society, but it often neglected to SHOW me. And that feels like a colossal opportunity wasted. Incidentally, I
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has a slow at the start with the pace and world building then gets better as you go. Emphasis is own political intrigue in the Empire rather than action and thrills.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare, the protagonist of Arkady Martines debut space opera A Memory Called Empire, has more than one identity crisis on her hands: she has a deep affinity for the empire that wants to annex her home and she also literally has someone elses personality nested in her brain. Dzmares internal conflicts correlate with the external ones that drive the novels plot. Living within the Teixcalaan Empire has been her hearts desire since childhood, yet her primary aim as ambassador is to ...more
Elizabeth Bear
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exceptional first novel recommended for fans of Cherryh, Leckie, Banks, and Asimov.
A Memory Called Empire is a political sci-fi novel with a main f/f romance, the best court intrigue I've read in months if not ever, and plot twists I didn't see coming.
It's set in a space empire in which straight isn't the default, most of the cast is queer, and the worldbuilding is complex but never confusing - everything I've ever wanted.

And yet it's so much more. I knew this would be an intense read for me right from the dedication, because this book is dedicated to anyone who has ever
Have you ever had to basically bribe yourself to finish a book? Like, you'll decide that if you read 50 more pages, you get to read a chapter of the book you would really rather be reading or you get to have a piece of candy. No? Just me? Well that's what I had to do to finish this book.

It started out well enough - the 'deadly technological secret' referenced in the blurb was absolutely the most interesting part of the book. Though I think labeling it 'deadly' is debatable. But once that secret
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was something of a slow starter for me. I enjoyed the empire that ran on poetry aspect quite a bit. The standard book of poetical encryptions, the multilayered pride, and subversions built right into the language.

However, I've read a ton of murder-mysteries built into SF worlds so the core of the tale was something of a no-brainer and followed all the conventions. Welcome a stranger, an ambassador for a tiny space-station ensconced in a huge, huge empire, have her replace her murdered
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intricate, layered tale of empire, personal ambition, political obligations and interstellar intrigue. Vivid and delightfully inventive.
Rebecca Roanhorse
I call this one The Aztec Empire in Space, in the best way. While a number of real world historical cultures no doubt influenced the superb and subtle worldbuilding in this novel, the one that I loved the most, that absolutely thrilled me, was the influence of the pre-conquest Aztec Empire. You so rarely see it in SFF (at least English language work). The naming conventions, the flowers, the people, the poetry, the sacrifice, the nahuatl word influence, and that's just the obvious things. There ...more
I'm super disappointed to be giving this only three stars (no three stars isn't bad- I'd just much rather give it four or five). I'm beginning to question whether it's me or the books.

I guess I'll start at the beginning. One of the first pages said something along the lines of: "This is for all those who have ever fallen in love with a culture that was not their own."

That one line pretty much sums up the whole book. Mahit (our MC) has spent her whole life training to be an ambassador from her
Allison Hurd
Time of death: 62%

I'm sorry, I'm skimming more and more and it's just not worth forcing myself to finish another book I can't enjoy.

What I was initially struck with was how much I respected the author--she seems educated, kind, fond of wit and justice, and I admire those things. Unfortunately, this book was largely misrepresented to me, and by the time I adjusted to the accurate genre, it was clear that it had none of the elements I enjoy in that sphere.

-A political thriller not a space opera.
Nick Borrelli
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over the past thousand years or so the Teixcalaanli Empire has been gradually swallowing up smaller planets and outposts to add to its vastly growing domain, often with no care with regard to the free people now being forced to bend the knee. You see, The Empire considers itself to be the height of superior intellect, artistic achievement, ethics, and overall culture. So when the small independent mining station Lsel is contacted by The Empire to supply another ambassador because the current one ...more
"A Memory Called Empire" is a densely-packed, detailed story of interstellar palace intrigue. Those expecting shoot-em-up action need to slow it down a little here. It's a very thick story that takes a while to be fully revealed. One of the central themes is past lives memory in the form of imago machines much like the past lives of Frank Herbert's Bene Gesserits and often a struggle for mind domination with a ghost from the past. Other themes involve how a minority culture on a distant frontier ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read
4.5 stars

Multilayered, creative, and finely written, all the more impressive when considering this is a debut novel. Basically all the hype is both true and well-deserved.

Interestingly, while I was reading this the writing style kept reminding me of Vivian Shaw. Strange Practice is a completely different story, in a different genre, but has a similarly comfortable and personal narrative style. It turns out Vivian Shaw is Arkady Martine's partner!

Although this book can be read as a standalone,
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
Very, very good. Great concepts, excellent character development, great dialogues, humour, emotional depth...

Ambassador Dzmare, he said, welcome to the Jewel of the World. A pleasure.

Mahit, a very green-behind-the-ears ambassador, comes to the capital of the empire that might have designs on her home, Lsel Station. This is what she yearned for, but its not entirely what it was supposed to be. And things dont go as planned.

After the first two chapters this made me think of Ann Leckies Imperial
This book was wonderful! I can also see why it's compared to some of C.J. Cherryh's work, such as her atevi society in the Foreigner series, which ran on tea. Copious amounts of it. The Teixcalaan Empire of this book runs on poetry. Copious amounts of it.
Mahit Dmzare has been training at Lsel Station to be an ambassador to the Teixcalaan Empre, when she's told the Empire has requested a replacement for their existing Lsel ambassador, Yskandr. When she arrives at the City, the main city of the
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
One of my favorite plots in science fiction is the stranger in a strange land, where we follow an individual from a culture as they are immersed in a different culture. Our stranger is Ambassador Mahit Dzmare of Lsel Station, a small independent culture based around space stations and asteroid mining. The strange land is the capitol of the Teixcalaan Empire, a sprawling cultural and military monstrosity of an empire that dominates human space and grows through conquest and annexation. There are ...more
Peter Tillman
So, the best introduction to this wonderful book is the author interview at NPR:
Now a Hugo nominee for Best Novel. Yay! Can't wait for #2. Get writing, AM! Sadly, I see Tor (& AM) have pushed back the release date to 3-2021. Grumble.

Galactic empires have a long pedigree in SF. The world-city capitol of Teixcalaan will remind old-timers of Asimovs Trantor. But Martines iteration has some fresh twists. New ambassador Mahit Dzmare is shoved into deep
What a debut! This is definitely political sci-fi. Some of the choices Mahit made at the end really surprised me 😊😊. The writing, world building, character development, and political intrigue were amazing! The f/f relationship felt organic and it was such a slow burn. Loved it! This read like a standalone so I am curious to see what the next book will be about.
Jon Adams
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent debut. The plot progression was a bit slow for a lot of the book, but the characters were fascinating and the writing was on point.

It states that this is book 1 but it could easily be read as a stand-alone. She leaves just enough hanging out there to make you want to pick up the next book, but ties up most plot points.

I'm so sorry you all have to wait until March. I cannot begin to tell you how MUCH there is in this book. Philosophy, poetry, politics, ethics, mystery, language, literary heritage, HERITAGE, LEGACY. LEGACY. AND WHAT IT ALL MEANS. I CAN'T GET ENOUGH.

I want to talk about the politics of the self and the ethics of legacy. The poetry of heritage. I WANT TO WRITE
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you know me a little bit, you know that the "sense of wonder" is my main motivation for reading. Mysteries and revelations are a close second.

A Memory Called Empire offers both, but maybe on other terms than I'd expected.

This is the story of Mahid, an ambassador from the small station of Lsel, who is tasked to serve at the court of the Emperor Six Directions, the ruler of the vast Teixcalaan empire.
Her predecessor has been murdered, so the mystery part of the novel is to find out who did it
Skye Kilaen
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-genre-scifi
I love science fiction with tangled political conspiracies, and if you do too, I strongly recommend you try this out. Lots of queer characters, diplomats trying to uncover secrets and make audacious deals to save worlds, a culture that adores poetry, illegal neurosurgery in the "bad" part of town... really good stuff. :)
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, read-2019
This book is amazing! Gary's review is the one to read ( ).

This fits well in the grand tradition of culturally-focused scifi, and I loved the implicit and explicit exploration of how humans will be different growing up in a space station culture threatened with physical (and cultural!) assimilation from a large neighboring empire. And the idea of a star-spanning empire based on poetry and intrigue tickles me too!

The plot is propulsive, the characters
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, r2019, scifi
Dont you just love it when you find a novel that you hadnt heard of, totally unexpected, that turns out to be an excellent read?

Comparisons to Cherryhs Foreigner series, as well as Leckies Imperial Radch, will of course abound, and yes, diplomacy, politics, and linguistics have an important role in this book, but the treatment of these themes is different. Martine has her own style, which is great. The world she creates is complex, multi-layered, and ever so fascinating! Two cultures, widely
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
I really loved this book, but it's definitely not for everyone. People who love Ancillary Justice and the intricacy of language and translation might very much join me on the "omg this was so good!!" train.
I also loved the main character Mahit and the main secondary character Three Seagrasses (awesome structures of names in this sci-fi novel), and following them navigating court intrigues and politics was a pleasure.

A quote I loved:
"and you thought, At last there are words for how I feel, and
With all due respect to other authors debuting in 2019: A Memory Called Empire is the belle of the debutante ball this year. Its rich worldbuilding, layered characterization, and philosophical musing on identity and nation is absolutely marvelous; it rests at the Lagrange point between Aliette de Bodards Xuya universe and Katherine Addisons The Goblin Emperor - multicultural galactic politics full of poetry and intrigue, centered on a deeply sympathetic protagonist whos not as out of their depth ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-club-read
Like so many other reviewers, I was excited about this book and am still excited about the world and many of the ideas. I was much less excited about the story. Unless you like political tension there wasn't much else to be found. There were some brief periods of fun bombings and whatnot but the rest never lived up to what I kept hoping it would. My expectations weren't external via reviews, word of mouth but internal because the world is extremely interesting, the story didn't live up to it.
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