Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tea and Murder: Stories of the Xuya Universe, by Aliette de Bodard (author), Stefan Rudnicki (narrator), Kate Orsini (narrator)

Skyboat Media, February 2021

This audiobook consists of two novellas, both set in the Xuya universe, but otherwise unconnected.

In The Citadel of the Weeping Pearls, it's thirty years after Empress Mi Hiep quarreled with her daughter, the Bright Princess Ngoc Minh, and Ngoc Minh took her followers, created the Citadel of Weeping Pearls, and pursued studies not approved of at the Imperial Court. This led to the ability to teleport, and weapons small enough to be smuggled anywhere, yet devastatingly powerful. Alarmed by these weapons, the Empress sent a fleet to destroy the Citadel, and the Citadel disappeared.

Now the Empire is threatened, and those weapons would be valuable. Also, the Empress is now quite old, and perhaps has started to realize that Ngoc Minh would be a better choice of heir than the Bright Princess's brother is. Mi Hiep has sent General Soo Nuoc to find the Citadel--until his search is interrupted by the disappearance of Bach Cuc, Grand Master of Design Harmony, who was on the track of the Citadel's technology, and perhaps the Citadel.

What follows is a complex and fascinating story, grounded in family ties, the ties of tradition, the ties of personal connection and obligation. It's told in four separate voices and viewpoints, and the characters are beautifully developed.

The Tea Master and the Detective is a very different story, a Holmes pastiche, extremely well done. The Shadow's Child is Mindship, a former military transport injured in the war, and now earning a meager living brewing mind-altering drugs to assist space travelers when their ships enter the Deep Spaces, and for other purposes. Long Chau, an abrasive, eccentric scholar, walks into her office seeking a brew to enable her to travel into the Deep Spaces seeking a corpse, to further her research. The Shadow's Child quickly concludes that Long Chau is already so precariously balanced with her existing drug load that the Mindship will have to also be the scholar's transport for the trip--an unpleasant but fairly simple assignment, and Long Chau can pay.

Unfortunately, the corpse they find is a murder victim, and neither of them can simply walk away from the case, especially once The Shadow's Child understands what Long Chau knew from the beginning--the Magistrate's office is not going to regard it as a priority or give it any serious investigation.

It's a nicely done, very enjoyable Holmes pastiche, and I'd love to see more with these characters.


I bought this audiobook.

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