Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie
Also by this author: Ancillary Justice
Published by Orbit on September 26th 2017
Genres: Science Fiction
Following her record-breaking debut trilogy, Ann Leckie, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards, returns with a thrilling new story of power, theft, privilege and birthright.
A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artefacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.
Ingray and her charge will return to their home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray's future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.
Leckie’s first trilogy is amazing, which sets a high bar for this new book. I am thrilled to say Provenance delivered more than I expected (even with the high expectations set by the previous books). I love the unique world Leckie has crafted, the unconventional genderizations (or lack there of) that exists in some of the worlds and how that challenges readers to drop their own gender expectations and assignments. This continues in this new standalone novel but I also found it easier to read than the first time I read one of her books. I do still find myself defaulting gender, but it makes me aware that I do this, so I feel like that is a positive step. I just find it interesting how easy it is to mentally assign a gender to a character based on their traits or personality, not necessarily because their gender was ever stated.
All of that said, what I love most is the characters and the actual story or plot. And I feel like that is where this book excels most. I enjoyed the tighter focus on a smaller cast of characters and became very invested in Ingray’s story. She was adopted from a public creche (kind of like a public orphanage) by a very powerful woman. The way things work in Hwae, politicians have heirs, but it is not a birthright and therefor heirs must be named and named before they die or their position will no longer exist. Some choose to always name their biological children, but some, like Ingray’s mother, do not have children of their own and adopt a number of kids with the sole purpose of finding one worthy of being named their heir. Ingray has been pitted against her brother in this competition. They both have been raised to master politics and be ambitious, but have different strengths. I loved Ingray’s character. She is intelligent and resourceful and has a determination to follow through, even when the odds are stacked against her.
The story is exciting as well. Ingray’s brother seems destined to be named heir (no one even pretends otherwise). So, Ingray decides to try one daring move that will get her noticed, and perhaps be enough to get that edge she needs to be her mother’s choice. This mission she takes does not go exactly as she plans, and could backfire. But it also connects her with some interesting characters, and puts her in a very unique position as a result. I don’t want to say more than that because I think you should get the details from your own reading experience with this book. Just know it is a book full of fun and excitement, with a mystery or two as well.
As much as I loved the Ancillary series, I loved this one even more. It is a standalone in the same world, and I would be ecstatic to read more about the characters, but the ending was very satisfying. Even if I might like more, it doesn’t need anything additional. I feel like this novel has all of the strengths seen in Leckie’s earlier books, but without needing the adjustment to a POV that is one element of a hivemind, as well as a smaller set of central characters, this felt “easier” to read. Some of the complexities were eliminated, but yet those complexities for the world that we learned about in the trilogy still exist and enhance this book. I do not think the it is required to read the trilogy before reading this, I would guess it would stand well completely on its own.I also enjoyed getting the resolution in a single book instead of needing to wait for the next installment. I love series, but I can also appreciate the satisfaction from a great standalone as well. Highly recommend it.