REVIEW: Provenance by Ann Leckie
Following her record-breaking debut trilogy, Ann Leckie, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards, returns with an enthralling new novel of power, theft, privilege and birthright.
A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.
Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.
Dear Ann Leckie,
I enjoyed your “Ancillary Justice” trilogy well enough to spend thirteen dollars on this book. Unfortunately I will not be in any hurry to buy your next one. I want to get something out of the way first – I thought it was technically well written and well edited, so I absolutely can see how it could be a five star read for other readers. I however was mostly disappointed with the plot and characterization.
The book takes place in the “Ancillary Justice” universe, but I think you can easily read it as stand alone. It had been awhile since I read the trilogy and I was not confused at all.
This story is mostly about a completely different human culture which Ingray is a part of, although another alien culture also makes a more detailed appearance in these books.
So why was I disappointed? First and foremost I hate it when the book blurb does not play completely fair with the reader. Oh there are no outright lies in there of course, but I thought it was, should we say, misleading. Ingray indeed wants to return some priceless artifacts which were supposedly stolen (one can debate as to how valuable those artifacts really were, but her people think them very valuable) in order to gain the favor of her idiot mother who is a successful politician, but who thought that encouraging her foster children to compete against each other is the best way to make them succeed in life.
Add to this that one of Ingray’s foster brothers left their mother’s house and the other seems to be an asshole who is happy to embarrass, blackmail, and humiliate his sister in order to gain the favor of their parent and here you have it. I already hated the woman from the first pages of the book and wished Ingray would grow up and realize that it was not worth it. Note, calling her an idiot is my interpretation of course, she is very smart and supposedly very talented politician, I just find her behavior towards her children idiotic.
But let me go back to explaining why I think the writer of the blurb did not play completely fair with the reader. The second sentence read to me as if Ingray will be freeing somebody from the awful prison, right?
Well, not quite. I mean she certainly freed that person from the prison but it was already done in the very beginning of the book and there was certainly no exciting action I was expecting based on the blurb. Now I was even more disappointed. The first problem Ingray truly tries to solve is how to transport herself and the person she freed to her home planet.
There were certain potential dangers they were about to face due to the captain of the ship they booked having certain secrets in his past, but nope, once again any promise of fun action dissolved right in front of my eyes and they got to Ingray’s home safely.
When Ingray, the person she freed, and the captain arrive to her home world, they are indeed thrust in the complicated political issues waiting to be resolved, hopefully peacefully. People talk with each other, they talk a lot, over and over – at some point I became very bored.
Remarkably, the hints of the action to come kept coming. At some point of the book *murder* happens. I love mysteries. Alas, that was not to be either. Everybody in the story named the murderer a few pages afterwards. Even more remarkably, unless I missed it, closer to the end of the story somebody tried to cast doubt upon the alleged murderer’s identity, but since no new revelation took place I have to assume that this person did it. At least I hope so.
Readers, understand please I am fully aware now when I am finished that the story is not a mystery. I am a little bit at a loss as to how characterize it, but a mystery it was not. However surely I could be excused for thinking that maybe a mystery is happening when the dead body pops up in the book and the investigation started?
Oh, almost at the same time when everybody calls the correct person the murderer, the wrong person is accused of murder (the same person that Ingray freed from the awful prison) and briefly detained. It seemed like it will require a lot of scheming and a lot of effort to free the guy and clear his name and sure, a little bit of scheming took place? But action did not happen once again. I thought it happened quite easily overall.
I want to say I was rewarded with some action at the end of the book. The last five or six chapters certainly moved much faster than the rest of the book but quite honestly by now I was not sure how satisfied I could be.
I talked about lack of action, but if I have great characters I can relate to, I am okay with slower moving plot. I remember for example how much I enjoyed “Goblin Emperor” and that book did not move fast either.
Ingray does grow up quite a lot by the end of the book, so I suppose she has a coming of age story arc, but I did not quite warm up to her even at the end. In the beginning somebody pretty much pulls a fast one over her, she was also involved in the scheme I could not relate much to, basically she bored me.
I appreciated seeing her as a kind human being, as somebody who grew to realize her own worth and deciding to pursue her own very worthy goal at the end, but as I said, I wanted to relate to her from the beginning and I just could not.
“And after all, she was just Ingray, nobody special, not beautiful or brilliant or particularly important to anyone. No. She was Ingray Aughskold, who had freed a wrongly convicted person from inescapable Compassionate Removal. Who had, completely unarmed, faced down Danach threatening her with a huge dirt mover. She’d had some help there, but she was also a person who sometimes had help from mysterious and unnerving aliens. She might have help here now.”
Her relationships with her brother, mother and nuncle (no, I don’t know what is the difference between nuncle and uncle) were indeed interesting, but could have had so much more depth.
I have to say something about pronouns. Those of you who read “Ancillary justice” remember “pronouns controversy” I am sure. Well, I am just going to give you an example with the caveat that “e” and “em” show up very often in the narrative and you will decide if writing style in this story will suit you or not.
“E looked so much like Pahlad I said something to em about it, but e said e wasn’t. And I got to talking to em and e said e was stranded and out of money and had no one to help em get home, so I thought I would help.”