Review of Provenance By Ann Leckie

25353286Provenance by Ann Leckie. ★★★1/2

Provenance is a new, stand alone novel set in the same world as the Imperial Radch trilogy, a stunning space opera story that begins with Ancillary Justice. However, you absolutely do not have need to have read the Imperial Radch trilogy. Provenance takes place on a new planet and has a new cast. Readers who found the Imperial Radch trilogy confusing might enjoy Provenance more, as the narrative is more linear.

Ingray’s hunting for a way to impress her mother and one up her brother, her continual competitor. She hatches a risky scheme that involves her springing a political rival’s child from a prison planet. Unfortunately, the person she sinks all her resources into rescuing is not who she thought e was. But all’s not over yet, for Ingray’s thought up a new plan to salvage the situation. She just didn’t anticipate the involvement of aliens or a certain untimely death…

I really liked the world building in Provenance. Ann Leckie excels at world building. Ingray’s culture places enormous importance in vestiges, objects that were close by to some historical event or person. They’re obsessed with vestiges, and the person Ingray’s originally trying to rescued was accused of stealing eir family’s vestiges. If Ingray can find out what happened to them, she’ll hold something of immense political and monetary value.

The Imperial Radch trilogy was known for playing with gender, and the same is true with Provenance. Ingray’s culture has a tertiary gender system: men, women and nemen (who use e/em/eir pronouns). One of the things I loved about Provenance was how it showed (or at least hinted) that not everyone fit neatly into this system. For instance, one of the characters delayed choosing her gender for a long time and faced a lot of social pressure as a result. I read her as gender-fluid without the words to describe herself in a culture that doesn’t recognize genders outside of their tertiary system.

It was also fun to see how Ingray’s people viewed the Radchaai, who’ve been our focus and protagonists in the last trilogy. The Radchaai diplomat was absolutely hilarious — completely arrogant and obsessed with tea.

I did enjoy the family relationships in Provenance. Ingry’s an adopted child of a prominent political house, and her mother plans to chose her heir from between her and her brother. But everyone knows it will be her brother. Hence Ingry being so desperate to prove herself. The family relationships are strained and difficult, but there did seem to be love beneath them.

I’d heard Provenance described as a heist, which made me excited. Turns out, Provenance wasn’t as heist like as I’d hoped. I’ve seen other reviewers calling it a comedy of manners, which I think is a very accurate description.

Ingry herself didn’t stick out much to me. I didn’t dislike her, she was just sort of… forgettable. I think the same can be said of Provenance itself. While there were things I enjoyed about it and it was fun to spend time with, it didn’t stick with me much after I’d read it.

 

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. @lynnsbooks says:

    Mmm, probably not going to pick this one up, I think I’ve resigned myself to the fact that you can’t get on with the writing style of every author – although, I’d not heard this described as a comedy of manners, which is interesting- that being said I would have preferred more of a heist focus.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Same. I’m a huge heist fan.

  2. Pyo says:

    I’ve recently read a lot of disappointing novels. Mostly because I picked out disappointing novels to read.

    So when this came out, and it wasn’t too much about any heists (I don’t like heists, although I like word), I basically had expectations that were massively out of proportion.

    And, I suppose, it kind of fulfilled them – in that it’s well-written and cleanly constructed and has a great setting and all that. But unfortunately I just couldn’t be bothered with what was going on, and that non-entity of a heroine. So I didn’t even finish it.

    And that’s the great thing about picking disappointing novels: I already know I’ll be disappointed, and won’t unduly get my hopes up. Never ends well anyway.

    1. I had been seeing a lot of mixed reviews before picking this one up. I don’t think it was disappointing exactly, but my expectations weren’t super high. It’s just not phenomenal.

  3. You hit upon a lot of points that also made me feel kind of lukewarm towards this book. And oh my goodness, you are right about the description making it sound like a heist, when in reality it wasn’t anything like that! I had forgotten about that misleading bit in the description. Now I feel even more cheated! 😛

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