Seven of Infinities was on my TBR list since before it came out, I think, but I wanted a paper copy… Nikki gifted me a gorgeous one and I did a buddy read with Tessa, which was quite fun! I wanted to post the review on Friday but lack of spoons happened so… here we are! I finished reading it on Wednesday and I’m still quite thrilled about it.
Vân is a scholar from a poor background, eking out a living in the orbitals of the Scattered Pearls Belt as a tutor to a rich family, while hiding the illegal artificial mem-implant she manufactured as a student.
Sunless Woods is a mindship—and not just any mindship, but a notorious thief and a master of disguise. She’s come to the Belt to retire, but is drawn to Vân’s resolute integrity.
When a mysterious corpse is found in the quarters of Vân’s student, Vân and Sunless Woods find themselves following a trail of greed and murder that will lead them from teahouses and ascetic havens to the wreck of a mindship–and to the devastating secrets they’ve kept from each other.
First off, I should say, althought this is part of de Bodard’s Xuya universe, you don’t need to have read any of it to understand and enjoy this novella. I’ve read The Tea Master and the Detective (as well as a short story collection, Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight), so it was nice to be able to draw parallels, but it’s not necessary at all!
I absolutely enjoy those novellas, because they mix scifi/space opera with murder mystery and queerness, and if that weren’t a recipe to my heart already, there’s food and tea involved. I joked on twitter that Aliette’s books need to come with a tea recommendation, but what makes them work for me is the atmosphere. The universe itself is a bit Out There, as scifi goes, with ships that are borne of human mothers, and deep Space that will make you mad, but it feels realistic because of that mundane atmosphere of foods and tea and rituals that make these people real to you.
Like Fireheart Tiger, women are also all the characters that matter in this book: the scholars and the thieves and the villains, the mothers and generals and future government officials. I especially loved the two leads, but the best of all was Uyen, Vân’s student. That kid kicked ass in all the best ways!
I also love a good bit of miscommunication, so it was fun watching both Vân and Sunless Woods hesitate on how much they can and should trust each other, and trying to guess the other’s real intentions while having half the truth. I always enjoy when there’s drama even on the good side. And I thought it made the growth of their relationship more interesting and real.
The murder mystery itself was intriguing and good, though it’s hard to say much about it without major spoilers. You’ll just have to trust me on that part.
Overall another great story by Aliette de Bodard, and one more reason to read more of her writing! It’s one of those books that stay with you for a while after.
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