A Memory Called Empire was my first ever book review on my blog, and my first ever post on bookstagram. So, it was wonderful timing that nearly an exact year after reviewing A Memory Called Empire I was approved for an e-ARC of A Desolation Called Peace. Thanks to Tor and Netgalley for the chance to read this delightful book before it’s release on March 2nd.
A Desolation Called Peace picks up about a month or so after the events of A Memory Called Empire. It also introduces new characters and POVs.
In the time since Mahit left Teixcalaan, the war with the mysterious alien force at the border of her station is in full force. Mahit’s time in the empire has left her disillusioned and insecure. She continues to struggle with integrating with her imago. But, bigger things are on her mind when Three Seagrass smuggles her way on board Mahit’s station.
Three Seagrass has been assigned as a diplomatic envoy to the Teixcalaanli fleet fighting the alien force and she has come to take Mahit with her. For maybe more than professional reasons.
In A Desolation Called Peace we have a number of new POVs. We have Mahit’s familiar voice, now skewed with frustration. Three Seagrass now has her own POV, as does the young heir to the throne, Eight Antidote. We also get a new character and POV in the form of Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus who has been tasked with handling the alien invasion. By far my favourite small POV were the delightfully creepy interludes from the POV of the aliens.
I thought most of the new characters and POVs were a great addition; however, I could have done without Three Seagrass’ POV. For me, it highlighted her as a static character. It just didn’t feel like she changed. She was unable to grasp the microagressions that Mahit faces in the Empire and from Three Seagrass herself. One of the central tenants of their relationship and it’s conflict in this book was the way that Three Seagrass doesn’t think of Mahit on the same level as she does a citizen of the Empire. Mahit’s experience in the empire has left her disillusioned. Three Seagrass’s refusal to see her as an equal, rather than an interesting “barbarian”, only exacerbates her feelings. Three Seagrass’ POV made her less of a sympathetic character for me.
The stakes of this book are grander than in A Memory Called Empire, but they also echo Mahit’s internal conflict and her sense of otherness. I enjoyed the fact that the overall themes of the novel fit together with Mahit’s personal stakes – it made the novel feel more fulfilling than the last. I really enjoyed seeing the different parallels in the story. And, we got to see more about the impacts of imperialism.
A Desolation Called Peace brings up some of my favourite questions in sci-fi. How do we define humanity or sentience in the face of beings we can’t understand?
I loved the aliens. I might be biased because I love seeing non-humanoid aliens in science-fiction. But, the aliens were a fantastic addition to the book.
Despite my misgiving about Three Seagrass’s POV, I still highly recommend this book. I loved it more than the first! The plot and politics felt tighter this time around and the story was less meandering.