Monday, April 26, 2021

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2), by Arkady Martine (author), Amy Landon (narrator)

Tor, ISBN 9781529001662, March 2021

Three months have passed since the end of A Memory Called Empire, and Mahit Dzmare, who had decided she couldn't stay in Teixcalaan, has found that she can't really go home again, either. Lsel Station is not a friendly and welcoming place for someone who has absorbed so much Teixcalaan culture, and who, oops, has not one but two imagos of the previous Ambassador, Yskandr, in her head. The Minister for Heritage wants Mahit in her lab to upload her imago for future generations, and when she finds out for sure what Mahit has done, it's not likely Mahit is going to survive that.

The Minister for Pilots is very annoyed with her and not inclined to help. The Minister for Mining has made her what's a really bad offer even if Mahit believed he'd keep his promise. When Three Seagrass shows up, managing to cause more trouble in the process, but asking Mahit, as Ambassador to Teixcalaan, to accompany her to what's going to be a really difficult negotiation in the middle of a war zone, Mahit decides it is, at least, the best offer available.

The deal Three Seagrass has brought her is that they work together to negotiate with aliens whose language they not only can't understand, but is near-impossible even to listen to. The Teixcalaanlizlim not only don't understand the language; they don't understand anything about the aliens. And the aliens don't understand anything about humans--including the fact that humans and these aliens have very different experiences of personhood.

Oh, and there's the awkward little fact that the aliens are much better at destroying Teixcalaan ships than Teixcalaan is at destroying the alien ships.

It's not just the communication problems with the aliens they have to contend with, though. There are political conflicts within the fleet. Yaotlek Nine Hibiscus has only six flagships, including her own, and their supporting ships, to fight the aliens. Yet one of her fleet captains, Sixteen Moonrise, is not supporting Nine Hibiscus, but trying to undermine her, even on her own flagship, Weight of the Wheel. Among other things, Sixteen Moonrise is working to cast Nine Hibiscus's efforts to evaluate the aliens and gather information to make an attack effective, as a hesitancy to confront them at all.

Both Nine Hibiscus and Sixteen Moonrise have allies back in the Ministry of War. Nine Hibiscus also has her adjutant, Twenty Cicada, whose well-earned nickname is Swarm (he's everywhere.) Back on the Teixcalaan homeworld, Eight Antidote, eleven-year-old heir to the Emperor Nineteen Adze, is noticing intrigue going on, and looking for answers. Even engaging in some intrigue of his own. He's caught between being just eleven, only perhaps a little more mature than the average eleven-year-old, but still a kid, and at the same time, the heir to the Emperor, with some real political value and power of his own.

In all of this, there's still the uncertain relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass, with Three Seagrass unaware of how much she unintentionally disrespects and insults Mahit, due to Teixcalaan cultural arrogance and imperialism, despite her genuine love for her. Managing that conflict is another challenge for Mahit, and confusion for Three Seagrass.

And I haven't really said a word about what an interesting character Twenty Cicada is. He's from a world absorbed into the empire perhaps more recently than many, an adherent of a minority religion, with an ethical philosophy different from the dominant one, and aside from his real friendship with the Yaotlek, that different viewpoint is an important part of his value to her. I really would like to see more of Nine Hibiscus and Twenty Cicada.

Oh, and there's a kitten. Mustn't forget the kitten!

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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