My Review of. . .
A Desolation Called Peace
This is the second book in the ‘Teixcalaan’ series by Arkady Martine, and it rounds off the story in a profoundly satisfying way. Here’s a taster from the back cover blurb.
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.
Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion.
Or it might create something far stranger . . .
Our story continues several months after the events in A Memory Called Empire. Nineteen Adze is now emperor, acting as regent until Eight Antidote comes of age. Three Seagrass has received a promotion of sorts, and now works within the Ministry of Information under the 3rd Secretary. And Mahit Dzmare has returned home to Lsel Station to take a break from state affairs for a while so she can recharge her batteries before returning to the fray.
All nice and cozy. . .
If only life was that easy.
This is the Teixcalaanli Empire, don’t forget, and cutthroat politics is always eager to peek out from beneath the thin veneer of high society sophistication. And it soon does.
As the blurb highlighted, an alien armada is making its presence felt along the far reaches of Teixcalaanli space. They are strange and mysterious. Unfamiliar in their practices and customs. And definitely creatures who cannot be classed as ‘people.’
One of the Empires most highly decorated and proficient fleet captains – Nine Hibiscus, recently promoted to Yaotlek for outstanding service – is sent to determine the danger, and act accordingly. A mammoth, complicated task, for tens of thousands of lives are under her immediate care, as are the billions more throughout the empire if she fails. And the aliens possess physics-defying technology, and an almost preternatural ability to know what’s happening everywhere at once, allowing them to anticipate her every move.
She needs help. And that help arrives in the form of Three Seagrass and Mahit Dzmare, who, it transpires, are having to deal with conflicts of their own. (This IS the empire, don’t forget, and everyone is out to get you, no matter how high your station or who you work for.)
A predicament Nine Hibiscus soon comes to appreciate. The situation demands she tread carefully, Very carefully. This is a first contact scenario with a species who appears to be outwardly aggressive. But is that really the case? Or is it merely because they can’t establish an effective way to communicate? Yes, Nine Hibiscus is tiptoeing on thin ice, and she finds it difficult to maintain her balance with rivals out to upstage her at every turn, and spies from the various government departments concealed within the fleet itself. You’d think everyone would be on the same side? But no, those spies serve masters with their own agendas, and it makes a volatile situation almost incendiary.
It really is. I found A Desolation Called Peace to be an intelligent, thoughtful and refreshingly different take of the usual ‘Space Opera’ slant. And to my mind, it highlights the dangers of assuming ‘humanity’ can’t possibly belong to those whose culture and appearance are so far removed from what YOU think is normal, that you come to look on them as extermination fodder. Oh, how karma can bite!
A promising debut series. I’m keen for more.