My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a fantastic slow burn of a first novel. I’m a fan of Arkady’s short fiction, and the hallmarks of well-crafted language, intricate, intimate worldbuilding, and smart, expressive characters are all here, too.
It is space opera, but it is also a murder mystery and diplomatic novel, while simultaneously commenting on memory and knowledge and how it’s passed along, and selfhood, self-determination, and problem solving. What’s also here is the softest of sweet lesbian romance subplots, which grows so gradually and organically that you feel like it’s a warm hug. Wrapped inside a twisty, turny political thriller in space. I’m seeing comparisons to Ann Leckie’s work, and that holds true, and it reminded me not a little bit of Babylon 5, too.
Mahit is a brand new ambassador, summoned abruptly from her space station to serve after the murder of her predecessor. Which she must solve. With very little help since no one will admit there’s a murder. There’s a civil war brewing, an aging emperor, and possibly something further out coming for both Mahit’s space station and the Teixcalaan homeworld (and everything else). Mahit needs answers, allies, and resources, and she begins the novel with none of the above.
It lives up to every ambition it sets itself. This novel is very much worth your time and energy.