Provenance is Ann Leckie’s latest book, continuing within the world of Ancillary Justice. Set outside the Radchi Empire, it follows Ingray as she tries to find herself and her value within her world, among cutthroat aristocrats, planetary politics — places where she feels desperate and terribly outmatched.
Its themes include family — particularly those containing adopted members — and dealing with family members you don’t necessarily get along with (or like), as well as how our perceptions of history and who we come from impact who we are. Yes, it has space-faring ships, non-human aliens, unique cultures, and gender-politics; but at heart remains the core experiences that make up life.
Societies, historical events, and cultural objects are described in a way that feels fluid, not jarring the reader with immersion-breaking pedagogy. While related to Leckie’s previous trilogy, you do not need to have read the Ancillary Justice books in order to enjoy and understand what is going on.
It is Leckie’s deep insight into the human condition that helps make Provenance stand out, giving the characters a solid dimensionality and motivation, blending them within their world’s culture and history. Characters, setting, and plot are all carefully woven and interdependent upon each other with astute and cunning meticulousness. Separate one piece from the rest, and wouldn’t necessarily fall apart, but the whole would not be as strong. The book’s themes would not be able to radiate so clearly, without falling on the cultural and social hangups a reader may have or seeming to ‘bash’ or ‘praise’ any single real-life culture or society. It allows the reader to examine their own norms and values without threatening one’s self-identity.
I would highly recommend Provenance not just to fans of Leckie’s work and people who like the space opera genre, but also to folks who want to read a great story with a human heart, and see a masterclass in connecting the various parts that make up a story and polishing them into a solid end product. The novel felt like quick read for me, with a solid hook and great immersive qualities that made the seven hours it took to devour fly by.