Provenance

By Ann Leckie
Orbit, ISBN: 978-0316388672
Hardback, 448 pages. ©2017

Ingray wants nothing more than to impress her adopted mama, the powerful politician Netano. Her brother wants the same thing, but Ingray knows he is already way ahead of her in the race. One of them will be named heir, and Ingray has a unique chance to step into that role—locate and return priceless artifacts that would give Netano a political advantage over her opponent.

Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to free the thief from prison and compel them to admit to their theft and reveal the whereabouts of the lost treasure. But her scheme reveals far more than she planned and blows the lid off a roiling kettle of unrest. When the dust settles, Ingray discovers not all treasures are what they seem, and not all dreams are worth their price.

I read Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series, and loved all three books. I found the world-building unique, diverse, dynamic and highly visual. Characters were well-thought out and fully developed. Plot lines were taut and driven, and I had trouble putting the books down. Provenance, for me, was a disappointment. I found Ingray to be as weak and weepy at the end as she was at the beginning. I was unable to connect with her or her plight, and by the time I got to the end, I was through with her. Other characters felt two-dimensional or as if they served as props.

Plot in Provenance was thin. I understood the value of Hwae vestiges and the strategic military issues of Hwae and its stations. But that understanding was purely intellectual. I never felt the tension I think Leckie intended, nor did I feel the urgency of the stakes. When the storyline should have been racing forward non-stop, characters engaged in plodding, time-consuming actions that slowed the pace to a crawl, and I quickly grew bored. I had no trouble putting this book down after a page or two, and had to push myself to finish it.

There were two things I liked about this book. First, the worldbuilding was up to the same standards as the Ancillary series, and in fact this tale takes place in the same universe. Several political situations from the Imperial Radch worlds come into this tale (though I felt this was done in a stilted, forced manner, and that they could have done so more organically; that could change in further books in this series). Second, Leckie’s universe uses gender-fluid pronouns – she and he for defined females and males, and e, eir, em for non-specific genders. It’s a bit jarring at first if you aren’t used to it or don’t know what it means, but it’s easy enough to pick up as you go. The Ancillary books did the same thing. I like that Leckie is inclusive in this way, and in other little ways throughout the tales.

Still, those two things weren’t enough to salvage the book for me. In short, the whole thing felt contrived. Other reviews, though, indicate that many readers did not agree with my assessment. Indeed, I read that Leckie is up for another award on Provenance, so I suppose I just wasn’t the right audience.

If you liked the Ancillary books, you might want to give this a try. Who knows? It may turn out to be your very favorite novel of all time. As for me, I won’t be reading the rest of this series.