Genre: Political Sci-Fi Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 5 stars Series: Yes - second book in duology
*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE*
An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.
In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.
Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE takes the intrigue and exploration of belonging, language, and assimilation found in A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE and tosses it into a war zone. I love this series’ focus on language and culture, taken from a new angle now there are aliens to talk to. It’s one of those series that wants a slow re-read to analyse how a whole world of literature has been created for characters to refer to and use as weapons against one another – masterful world building that needs to be analysed.
There are more POVs than what I can recall of MEMORY. Instead of primarily being Mahit’s, there is also Three Seagrass (returning from the first book) working with Mahit to negotiate as the two try to work out the nature of their relationship, the fleet commander Nine Hibiscus trying to reduce casualties and work out how this war can be won, and Eight Antidote, the imperial heir getting stuck into politics and unearthing secrets of bickering ministries.
Having more POVs allows this story more immediate scope as it’s not following one character around. Instead of being a tight political thriller with lots of information missing from the reader, there is instead a much wider story where the reader knows more, but isn’t sure how it will play out as there are so many players to consider. The politics is still strong (whoo) but it’s woven around a war, with the different parties having their own desired outcomes. Plus there’s an alien first contact storyline that is reminiscent of ARRIVAL (how do you talk to aliens who you do not share a common language with?)
This bouncing around between storylines also separates it from the first book, giving it a faster paced, more frantic feel than the slow build of beauty and unease in MEMORY. It feels more like a world at war, everyone having to make snapshot decisions and balance the conflicting desires around them so that they operate as efficiently as possible.
I am sad to see this series end, but I look forwards to seeing what comes next from Arkady Martine.
Read my reviews of other books by Arkady Martine:
Teixcalaan (this series):