A Fire Born of Exile
A beautiful standalone science fiction romance perfect for fans of Becky Chambers and Ann Leckie
by Aliette de Bodard
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Pub Date 12 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 19 Oct 2023
Orion Publishing Group, Gollancz
'Incredible . . . This is a world of dizzying tech, gorgeous illusions and twisty political thrills - catnip for readers who enjoyed Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy or Jacqueline Koyanagi's Ascension'
NEW YORK TIMES
The Scattered Pearls Belt is a string of habitats under tight military rule . . . where the powerful have become all too comfortable in their positions, and their corruption. But change is coming, with the arrival of Quynh: the mysterious and enigmatic Alchemist of Streams and Hills.
To Minh, daughter of the ruling prefect of the Belt, Quynh represents a chance for escape. To Hoà, a destitute engineer, Quynh has a mysterious link to her own past . . . and holds a deeper, more sensual appeal. But Quynh has her own secret history, and a plan for the ruling class of the Belt. A plan that will tear open old wounds, shake the heavens, and may well consume her.
A beautiful exploration of the power of love, of revenge, and of the wounds of the past, this fast-paced, heartwarming standalone space opera is set against a backdrop of corruption, power, and political scheming in the far reaches of the Xuya universe, also home to the Arthur C. Clarke Award-shortlisted The Red Scholar's Wake.
'A tense, accomplished space opera, told with de Bodard's usual vividness and verve. For my money, it's an even better novel than The Red Scholar's Wake, which I loved'
'De Bodard's worldbuilding dazzles . . . a touching sci-fi romance that will delight fans and new readers alike'
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 23 members
I am new to the Xuya universe, as I don't read a lot of short stories, but this full length novel set in this world is wonderful. The premise that humans can give birth to mindships, sentient beings, part machine and part organic, is one I find thrilling, and I have discovered a full list of the background short stories and novella I have to work my way through whilst I wait for the next novel in the series.
Once I had settled my mind to the (initially confusing to my English experience) names and decided to ignore the various diacritic marks and invent my own pronunciations, the characters took on their proper place in my head and I could enjoy the plot, which is so deep and political that you have to read the book and find it for yourself. Which I recommend you to do as soon as possible.
Action and attraction in equal measure.
The Red Scholar’s Wake was one of my favourite books of the last year, so I was looking forward to reading this, the second full-length story in Aliette de Bodard’s Vietnamese-inspired Xuya universe setting. While it doesn’t feature a marriage of convenience to a grieving sentient spaceship - admittedly, a concept that’s pretty hard to top - it does have an equally interesting setup. What’s more important, revenge or love?
Quynh is an enigmatic alchemist who strides confidently into the lives of the other characters, turning heads wherever she goes. That includes Minh, the rebellious teen daughter of the system prefect, and Hoà, a low-ranking repair technician who is worried about making ends meet while looking after her ill sister.
Naturally, not everything is how it first appears, and just as the central mystery is gradually being untangled, hearts are equally being intertwined. The romance is captivating, with power dynamics shifting backwards and forwards across the story. Quynh starts out lying to everybody, including herself, but is still a generally sympathetic character, so you’ll be rooting for her to succeed despite her continuing deceptions.
As this is a standalone story with new characters, you don’t have to read the previous book to enjoy it, but you really should, because it’s also excellent. Both come thoroughly recommended.
Thank you to Orion Books for the advance copy.