Provenance by Ann Leckie

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Provenance is set in the same universe as Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy but in an area of space outside the Radch Empire and the Radch themselves have only a very peripheral involvement. The main protagonist Ingray has embarked on a risky venture in the hopes of improving her chance of succeeding to the head of her very political family. The story begins with this venture starting to go off the rails.

Provenance is, for me, much inferior to the three Imperial Radch books. I found both the writing and characters very poor; Ingray seems completely incompetent at virtually anything she tries mostly just reacting, poorly, to events rather than driving them in any meaningful way apart from her initial attempt to further her ambitions. And what is it with Leckie and bursting into tears? After suffering the Radch soldiers frequently doing so in the earlier books, Ingray seemed to be permanently either on the verge of bursting into tears or actually doing so. I very rapidly lost patience with her character and found no other characters that I could even begin to like.

Also after having been impressed with Leckie for not getting into horrible neuter pronouns in the Radch books (they always pull me out of the story whenever other authors use them) this time she goes for it introducing her own particular variety of neuter pronouns in this book. Making it uncomfortable and awkward to read. I’m not being anti-trans or anti-gender-neutral in this. I feel that if we want to view all the gender options with true equality then far better to take Leckie’s original approach and ignore them completely by only using one gender pronoun – in her case the female form – and that worked beautifully in my view.

At the core of the story were ‘vestiges’ which were essentially souvenirs of particular events that might be as trivial as a ticket to a theatre performance or as important as a signed declaration of independence. And quite frankly I struggled to find a society for which these vestiges are the single most important artefacts in their culture the least bit plausible. The fact that Leckie has pretty much every other civilisation in the galaxy equally incredulous did not help me find it believable.

This was a story of one woman stumbling from one disaster to the next, usually of her own making and yet somehow coming out smelling of roses, all set in a culture I could not believe in. I could find no resonance with either her or any of the other characters. A frustrating book that could have been good but in comparison with her earlier books just felt thrown together.



3/5 stars.
 
I have all four of the Radch Empire series at home and am very much looking to reading them.

It’s a shame that additional books outside of a trilogy don’t quite make the grade. I think the only time I’ve read one was Alistair Reynolds’s Chasm City.
 
I have all four of the Radch Empire series at home and am very much looking to reading them.

It’s a shame that additional books outside of a trilogy don’t quite make the grade. I think the only time I’ve read one was Alistair Reynolds’s Chasm City.
Yes, I liked the trilogy very much so was rather disappointed by this one. But, hey!, I liked her first three debut books so I'm certainly not writing her off for one that didn't grab me as much, and, of course, your mileage may very well very.
 

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