Title / A Memory Called Empire
Author / Arkady Martine
Publication Date / April 2019
Series or standalone / book 1 of 2
Page no. / 464
Overall Rating / ★★★.5
A science fiction debut, this is the first book in the Teixcalaan series. Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in Teixcalaan to find that her predecessor, from the same mining station (Lsel Station), has died. Although his death is put down to an accident, Mahit suspects foul play and she must uncover the mystery behind his death before she becomes the next victim. At the core of this book is a murder mystery story but it is also heavily focused around the politics of the world.
This is an impressive sci-fi debut with intricate world building and a compelling plot. It did take me a little while to settle into the flow of the story but after a couple of chapters it was no longer an issue. Court intrigue and political manoeuvring play a large role in the story of this book and Martine writes these elements very well. You never fully know who to trust and the way Martine slowly unveils information creates a wonderfully suspenseful atmosphere. It does take a little while for the story to get going but stick with it as it does pick up after a couple of chapters. Once I was fully invested, I didn’t want to put this book down. The characters are all well written with complex personalities and good development. I have to admit that I wasn’t fully invested in Mahit at the beginning, but the way Martine develops her throughout the 464 pages means you will be by the end of the book. Martine also did a great job at developing the relationships throughout the book. In particular the relationship between Mahit, Three Seagrass and Twevle Azalea. There is some romance in this book and I really appreciated the fact that it was never the main focus of the story. The names of the characters are unlike anything I’ve come across before, so that was quite refreshing to see. I’m interested to see how these characters will be developed in the sequel. Generally speaking the plot was compelling throughout, although the slow pacing may mean it drags for some readers. At times the pacing was also a little uneven, but it didn’t detract too much from my overall reading experience. Martine does a fantastic job at weaving the threads of the story together. The mixture of mystery and political intrigue was so enjoyable to read, and the growing feeling of suspense was really well done.
The main strength of this book was the world building. Martine has created an incredibly detailed world. Every element of this world from the culture to history to technology is so well written. It is clear that the author put a lot of time and effort into creating it. While I think the world-building is incredible in this book, I also think that the intricacies of the world may be too dense for some. A lot of detail has gone into this world, especially the language, so if you are looking for a fast-paced, action packed sci-fi book then this isn’t for you. Personally, I find languages and the origins of words to be interesting, so I really enjoyed this element of the book. I do think that some of these passages did go over my head a bit, but it didn’t really detract from my overall reading experience. I think this is going to be a great book to reread because you’ll always be finding something new that you missed the first time. I cannot say enough good things about the world building – it is so incredibly detailed. There is a glossary of all the people, places and things at the end of the book, which is useful to check back with if needed. For those interested there is also a section focused on the ‘pronunciation and writing of the Teixcalaanli language’ if you want to know more about it. There is so much potential in this world, so I am glad that we get a sequel to see more of it. If you like strong world-building, then you should definitely check this book out.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I did find myself skim reading at times, but I still think this is an impressive debut and well worth a read, especially if you love science fiction. This is unlike any sci-fi book I’ve read before. It’s best to take your time with this book so you can take in all the details. I am definitely interested to see what the author has in store for the second book, A Desolation Called Peace, which is set to come out from Tor Books some time in 2020. Have you read this book? I’d love to know what you guys thought. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.