Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch books, starting with Ancillary Justice, is at the top of my list best trilogies that I’ve ever read. I loved the intricate intergalactic universe she created along with the characters who roam it. I’m pretty much down to read anything Leckie writes at this point.
Provenance is set in the same universe (an instant draw for me), but it’s focused on a different region of the galaxy, primarily set on a planet called Hwae, which has their own unique conflicts and cultural values. There is a strong focus on family as a political construct, as well as a passion for “vestiges,” or cultural artifacts that provide a level of prestige on the owner.
Driven by the need to impress her politically motivated mother, she embarked on a dangerous and desperate scheme — to bring a criminal out of imprisonment so that e can reveal the location of some stolen vestiges. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. The person she broke out claims to be someone else entirely. She quickly devises a new plan, but her ship home gets stopped by an ambassador with a gripe and once she does make it home, she’s greeted by political turmoil. Things only get stranger and more dangerous from there.
I don’t want to say much more than that — vestiges play a large role in storyline, as does the question of whether they are valid or forgery It’s twisty story with many, many threads from seemingly dissimilar occurances that all somehow come together in the end.
Ingray, at first, seems a bit frivolous. Her plan is absurdly risky and has cost her much in it’s execution to only have it fail. However, she’s a person who proves herself capable of thinking her way through just about any crisis (with only a little panic in the interim). Her plans are wild and sometimes foolish, but they also tend to work. She’s also really compassionate toward other people, helping who she can despite the risk to herself. It makes her lovable.
She makes some interesting allies throughout her journey — most notably, Garal Ket, the prisoner who may or may not be who she was seeking, and Captain Tic Ulsine, who ran away from his life on Geck by making off with a few of their ships. Both of these characters are clever and entertaining in their own unique ways.
On the whole, I would say that Provenance is a lighter romp than the Radch trilogy, the elements driving it more down-home with several iterations of family and family conflict being at center. A lot of the characters motivations are the result of the desire to fit in with family or the rejection of family along with the formation of new families. It’s impressive how Leckie is able to bring so many threads together into such an interesting story. It’s brilliantly done.