Ann Leckie is easily one of the most exciting talents on the scene right now. The Ancillary Justice books pretty much won every award going, garnering favourable comparisons to the likes of Ian M. Banks and James S.A. Corey. Her latest book, Provenance, is set in the same galaxy, but doesn’t star the Imperial Radch, featured so intensely in the ‘Ancillary’ series.
Instead, Provenance focuses on the hapless character of Ingray Aughskold, a hyper-privileged brat who is part of a highly competitive family environment. Plucked from poverty as a youth, Ingray is desperate to humiliate her brother Danach, with whom she shares a rivalry with. As the story opens, we learn that her plan revolves around vestiges, artefacts of her culture’s past. These are literally status symbols; the more old junk you have the higher your social standing. Ingray’s plan starts badly by bringing a known criminal ‘back from the dead’ on a legal technicality. Things go downhill from there, much to the reader’s delight.
The plot is a lovingly detailed twisting thing. As the tale continues, we learn more about the intricacies of Ingray’s world and society. Elements from the outside world add further colour and complications. The world building is steady, believable and clever. For example, the main character’s culture uses e/eir/em as their primary gender pronouns. This immediately immerses the reader in the world; we swiftly understand that Ingray and ‘eir’ people have specific rules and a different outlook, and there is a strong scene where the characters puzzle over alien pronouns. It’s just a little touch but it hammers the strangeness of Ingray’s world home very firmly. This is all done pretty seamlessly throughout, each piece of detail slotting together to evoke a greater, more involved world.
Provenance is a story about the power of identity; knowing whom you are, what your roots are and how important these things are to you and other people. It’s a tale of self-deceit and self-discovery, with some ripping space adventure and gentle mystery mixed in. Leckie is a master of gripping Sci-Fi. Recommended.
PROVENANCE / AUTHOR: ANN LECKIE / PUBLISHER: ORBIT / RELEASE DATE: 28TH SEPTEMBER