I loved this book! Like Aliette de Bodard’s previous books, this one is highly influenced by Vietnamese culture and language. This is also another installment in her Xuya universe of mindships and humans, and like The Tea Master and the Detective, this story centers around a mindship and a human. It is also a murder mystery.
The characters are well-crafted and sympathetic, and the growing romance is sweet. Vân is an impoverished tutor with a secret she fears will ruin her; Sunless Woods is a thief masquerading as a scholar. Of course keeping these secrets gets them both in trouble, and they have to give in and share them in order to save their relationship. I sympathized with both Vân and Sunless Woods, and was definitely rooting for them and their romance.
The worldbuilding was excellent and comprehensive, taking the previously established world of mindships and space stations and expanding it to include memimplants – fascinating idea, carrying the knowledge of your dead ancestors in your head, the better to succeed on exams. The world felt real and complete and rich with setting and characters.
The language is still a bit challenging, though it gets easier the more I read, and it often uses hinted and unspoken information, which requires reading between the lines to get the full understanding. Every book of hers that I read intrigues me more and I will definitely be putting Aliette de Bodard on my autobuy list.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an e-arc to review.