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A Desolation Called Peace: Teixcalaan #2    by Arkady Martine order for
Desolation Called Peace
by Arkady Martine
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A Desolation Called Peace follows A Memory Called Empire as the second in Arkady Martine's complex and totally fascinating Teixcalaan space opera series.

The first episode sent young ambassador Mahit Dzmare from her small, independent mining Station to the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire. She was armed for the role with the imago-machine (memories and persona) of the previous ambassador implanted in her skull (existence of such imagos being a closely kept secret). In the capital, aristocratic Teixcalaanli imperial officer Three Seagrass became her cultural liaison, friend and ally. Together, they survived Machiavellian politics and a succession coup.

A Desolation Called Peace opens from the perspective of alien(s) in a seemingly indestructible armada on the edges of Teixcalaanli space that 'struck, destroyed, vanished without warning or demands'. They clearly perceive the universe very differently from the way humans do. Next, readers are introduced to Teixcalaanli Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus. Unable to destroy the enemy or to communicate with them, what can she do? Has she been sent to her death?

As in the prequel, the author spins an intricate web with key players including new Teixcalaanli Emperor Nineteen Adze and her delightfully inquisitive young heir Eight Antidote, as well as Mahit and Three Seagrass. Mahit has returned in quasi-disgrace to Lsel Station, whose Councilors do not have her back - she feels trapped and without options. Fortunately, Three Seagrass answers a request from Nine Hibiscus for a first-contact specialist by assigning herself the task - and then stops on Lsel to enlist Mahit as well.

Their task seems impossible, their methods are certainly unusual, and their relationship is fragile, but they do get it done. Nevertheless, Mahit ends up exiled from Lsel - what's next for her? We'll just have to wait for Arkady Martine to write it!

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