I loved this. Like the House of Shattered Wings series this has a strong Vietnamese influence, but this is set in space.
Our protagonist is a mindship who exists both in space and as an avatar projected to rooms where she interacts with humans. She makes tea blends that are carefully tailored to each customer. She becomes fascinated by a new customer and ends up going to retrieve a dead body and helping solve a murder mystery. All the while dealing with seeming attraction to said customer – a brash, drugged, brilliant consulting detective – and past trauma.
I would read a novel or even a series of these characters happily – they grew on me very quickly and were intriguing as a pair. Very Sherlock Holmes-esque.
I also love Aliette de Boddard’s writing style. It’s dense and all the Vietnamese inspired names and terms make reading it a bit difficult, not to mention the way things are hinted at but seldom said outright – like wading through knee-deep water instead of breezing along the shore – but I love it just the same. Or maybe because? I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m adding her to my auto-buy list.
This was such a fabulous book! It’s magical and mysterious and I’m so glad I opted for the audiobook, because the narrator was absolutely fantastic and really brought Piranesi to life.
I’m in love with the setting – who wouldn’t want to live in an endless labyrinthine house full of statues with tides rushing through it’s lower halls? Piranesi felt such joy and love for the House that he made me love it too. He also seems to believe that it can communicate to him through the birds that wheel about the halls – he watches which statues they land on and then tries to extrapolate a meaning.
There are nagging discrepancies that clued me in early on that everything was not as it seemed on the surface. It all centered around the Other, Piranesi’s only friend and the only other person alive in the house. (There are 13 skeletons, but they are obviously not alive, even though Piranesi brings them offerings of food and makes sure they remain in good order.)
But the Other has stylish, polished clothing where Piranesi’s clothes are worn to rags. The Other sometimes brings him things like vitamins and new shoes. (Piranesi subsists on a diet of fish and seaweed, as these are the only foodstuffs the House provides.) The Other is brusque and preoccupied with rituals that Piranesi does not understand and has little interest in.
The story is slow and beautiful and moves like the tides that rush through the halls of the House then recede. The characters are intriguing, more so as the story progresses and the inconsistencies and discrepancies add up. There’s this sense of peace and discovery and awe and wonder at the House that the main character (who is Piranesi but also not) feels and it bleeds into everything we discover.
The audiobook narrator is fabulous, the story engaging and mysterious, and it feels so intimate and cozy. Like I’m just sitting by a fire with Piranesi as he recounts his adventures to me. I love his heart and his empathy and his kindness, especially as they’re contrasted with Ketterly’s brusque indifferent egotism.
My only complaint is that it isn’t longer. I would listen to this story if it were ten times as long with pleasure.