Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

After playing a pivotal role in the recent political upheaval on the Jewel of the World, ambassador Mahit Dzmare leaves Teixcalaan – and her cultural liason Three Seagrass – behind to find a moment of respite on her native Lsel Station. Once she arrives, however, she finds that she cannot from escape politics even in her own home – and before long, even the long arm of the Teixcalaanli Empire reaches her to drag her off to the front in a new war that is -at least partially – of her own making…

Listened to the audiobook with Amy Landon – it worked, but I feel this is maybe not a series for listening to. Do as I say, not as I do…

Arkady Martine recently won her second Hugo Award for A Desolation Called Peace. That means she’s gone two Hugos for two novels so far, which is an impressive record to say the very least. I just finished the novel as well, so I figured that’d be a perfect occasion to upload the review.

I loved A Memory Called Empire because it was such a great balancing act between the politics, the plot, and the personal. In A Desolation Called Peace, Martine does a similar great job balancing politics, war, and the personal stories and relationships of her main characters. She keeps the story fresh by shifting focus partially awat from the the Jewel of the World (the Teixcalaanli capital) to Lsel and the Six Outreaching Palms (the Teixcalaanli fleet). At the same time, she further explores the themes of intercultural communication that she already introduced in A Memory Called Empire, delving deeper into the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass as well as the diplomatic relationship between Teixcalaan and its new enemies. 

A Desolation Called Peace is still very much a science fiction novel but like A Memory Called Empire, it feels like it has just a little more weight to it than most stories that feature space battles and first contact. It has conversations that feel like duels, reminding me of Dune. It hits modern and relevant themes. And it even has cute Kauraanian kittens clogging the pipes of a warship to balance all that seriousness out.

The only thing that holds A Desolation Called Peace back a little compared to A Memory Called Empire is that it features many more story lines and relationships, and as a result, it has a little less space to give each of them the depth that Mahit’s relationships with Yskandr, Three Seagrass, and Nineteen Adze have in Memory. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great novel in a great setting though, and though I haven’t read any of the other novels on the nomination shortlist, I am convinced that A Desolation Called Peace deserves the Hugo as much as the previous instalment.

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