Ann Leckie returns to the Imperial Radch universe from her Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Award-winning Ancillary series, but this one breaks almost all space-opera rules. In order to gain power within her family and firmly establish her birthright, Ingray frees a thief from a prison from which no one returns to steal a priceless artifact for her. Upon their return to Ingray’s home planet, they find her world in the middle of an escalating interstellar conflict.
Unlike most space operas that span great distances and a vast numbers of characters, Provenance is tightly focused on Ingray, her relationships, and her series of misadventures. I’ve heard this one referred to as a comedy of manners, because although there is a touch of action, mystery, and murder, the tone is much less intense, focusing more on the intricate family and inheritance politics.
With a lot of the complicated world-building previously established, the characters and their dialogue shine. There isn’t some ground-breaking realization or plot twist. Instead, the plot is a lot like the gender neutrality: charmingly effective. I like that Ingray is clever and resourceful, but also makes one bad decision after another and is often on the verge of tears. She feels real.
If you have the opportunity, get this as an audiobook; the reader is fantastic!
Recommended an an endearing comedy of errors that also happens to be space opera scifi!
“Are you going to tell me you thought all those bits of trash displayed on the station were real, or important?”
“They’re important to us!”