A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
Literary science fiction that concludes the duology begun with A Memory Called Empire. While sometimes described as space opera, Martine’s writing is more descriptive and complex than most adventure filled space operas. If you enjoyed Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie or Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor or The Witness for the Dead, you may find this a very satisfying read. The world building, characterization, and writing are all top-notch, and there are feline-like creatures that purr. However, there are also aliens so dangerous that just an audio recording of them can make listeners ill. In this first contact story, there are multiple narrators from two very different cultures. Young ambassador Mahit Dzmare has most of the memories of her predecessor, and is in some danger back home on Lsel Station. Her former liaison to the Teixcalaan Empire, Three Seagrass, spots an emergency request from Nine Hibiscus, in charge of the fleet facing these aliens, and travels with Mahit, her potential love interest, to Nine Hibiscus’s fleet to try to communicate with the aliens. Back on Teixcalaan’s capital world, young imperial heir Eight Antidote, 11, is exploring the tunnels and back ways of the palace complex, where he is encouraged to observe and learn how the empire is governed. While observing quietly, Eight Antidote picks up information that may help Mahit and Three Seagrass, and keep Nine Hibiscus from escalating the conflict. While there are several main characters and multiple plotlines, the author skillfully draws the reader in with beautiful prose and an ever-intensifying pace. A finalist this year for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, this story may also appeal to fantasy readers of Guy Gavriel Kay. Future books are planned in the Teixcalaanli Empire, but they will not be sequels.