First I must note that I now can only experience novels in audiobook format as two years ago I suffered severe head trauma that rendered my ability to follow a written narrative of any reasonable length impossible. I can read provided that the characters and settings are ones that I’ve encountered before, say those in a Simon R. Green series such as his Secret History. I won’t say that I follow the narrative very well, but I can roughly follow it. New characters, story and setting? Not a chance. However I can follow perfectly the latter if it’s an audiobook. I assume that the two are processed in different areas of the brain.
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives at the World City that is at that the center of the vast interstellar Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small station, has been murdered. It seems that he got himself involved in Imperial politics, something no one that the Teixcalaanli political elite considers a barbarian should have done.
Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion – all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, while engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret that she barely understands from the Imperium – one that might spell the end of the station she calls home and her way of life – or rescue it from annihilation. Or possibly both.
I’m going to stress that the sheer play of the language here is why I was so enthralled by this novel. With lines like So much of who we are is what we remember and retell… being part of this extremely conversational novel, it was fascinating listening indeed. Amy Landon is the superb narrator who brings every character herein to vibrant life with a unique believable voice.
To say more about this not-a-space opera would spoil it. The improbable friendship that forms between our Ambassador and her Imperial liaison is still intact at the end of this first book, but I’m sure it’ll but tested in the second. It’s a wonderful novel that’s a great start of a hopefully long series. The setting, the characters and even the story feel fresh, quite unlike the usual riff on interstellar empires. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many of the characters are women and they are quite capable at what they do.