Review: A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine

So first of all, I didn’t really intend to go on hiatus. But over the last two weeks, I finished my dissertation and then I just kind of crashed. But I’m now free from university and will be able to read a lot more! So hopefully this is one in a long line of future reviews!

I’d been meaning to read this one for like, forever (I feel like I say this for every review but it’s TRUE!), or at least since it came to my attention by winning the Hugos last year. But I also knew it’d be heavy, by its topic alone, so I kind of… put it off. Then as the second book in the series was released recently, I figured I should make the effort! I wasn’t disappointed.

The Story

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As with most popular books, I had a lot of expectations out of this. Also for some reason, after watching the Hugos ceremony, the impression that the author was a good person and I just could NOT not love this book. As always, putting pressure on myself isn’t great… and I found myself struggling to get into it, because I did not want to be disappointed.

But then it caught me off guard and started being funny which was absolutely not what I was expecting, and I loved it from there. I don’t mean to say it’s comedy, because it’s really not. But it has some truly funny moments and I found myself laughing, and I find that it’s always a good way to bond with characters. I just. absolutely. loved. Mahit, and her cultural liaison Three Seagrass.

The plot is a complex political intrigue and it would have been pretty easy to make it confusing, but I was never lost. Or, because Mahit is basically a stranger in a foreign land, despite all her knowledge of their culture, the confusion was always deliberate. I was confused with her.

There’s a lot in this book about colonization, and empire, and culture, which I don’t feel I’m in a good position to judge, except that it came across as really well thought-out.

Without spoiling it, I really liked the way it ended, it was satisfying, and also pretty well-rounded. No cliffhanger, which I’m not sure I could’ve survived, emotionally.

I can’t say enough how much I love the characters. I had this feeling the whole… last 150 pages really, that I wanted it all to unfold so I could know what happened to them, and simultaneously did not want that because then I’d have no more of them to read. Suffice to say I ordered the next volume before I was even finished with this one.

The Links

 Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | Kennys

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