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“Provenance” by Ann Leckie

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Ann Leckie burst onto the sci-fi scene in 2013 with her novel Ancillary Justice, which won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards. Provenance is set in the same universe as the Ancillary trilogy but focuses on a different society.

The main character, Ingray, has a daring plan to bring a convicted criminal back from exile, in the hopes that information he has will prove beneficial to her foster mother’s political career. Needless to say, complications arise. As Ingray tries to keep everything on track, she gets embroiled in a murder investigation that could have serious repercussions for interstellar politics, possibly to the point of starting a war.

When I read the blurb for this book, I assumed that most of the novel would be concerned with Ingray’s attempted prison break. That does not turn out to be the case, and initially I was disappointed. But then I was drawn into the story by the intricate worldbuilding, interesting characters, and steadily mounting tension. Several plot threads are followed throughout most of the book, and they dovetail nicely at the end.

Provenance could be seen as an indirect sequel to the Ancillary books—not only does it take place in the same setting, but some of the plot points depend on a treaty that was established in the earlier series. Despite this, reading the trilogy isn’t necessary to enjoy Provenance. For those who have read it, the new book serves to explore another culture in that universe, adding depth and variety to the setting. For both new and old Leckie fans, Provenance is well worth reading.

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