After the runaway success of the previous trilogy, Provenance almost feels like the difficult second album in book form - I enjoyed it, so while I'll definitely be buying the paperback when it comes out next year in the UK (yes, what is up with that?), but I guess those books were a very tough act to follow!
Anyway, in case you're wondering, Provenance is set pretty much at the same time that (over in Radchaai space, far away but not quite that far), the Presger are making noises about their treaty and a certain space station AI has declared itself to be human. Those events are mentioned in passing, so this stand-alone novel doesn't need you to have read Ann Leckie's other books to enjoy this one.
Our main character is Ingray, who has decided that the only way she can impress her adoptive mother is to pull off something audacious - the weakest part of Ingray's motivation, given how she says she feels about this relationship and her own later acts - in this case rescuing someone from life imprisonment. This book is set on Hwae, in a society where 'vestiges' are important, usually things that are associated with famous people and events, and the someone in question supposedly stole a whole load of them from his family. Except that the person whose rescue she pays for turns out to be a) possibly not the person she was supposed to be rescuing, and b) not actually a thief.
Ingray's plan does, however, involve her with the Geck - a mysterious water-based culture who communicate with the outside world via odd, spider-shaped mechs - as well as a plot to overthrow the government of Hwae by means of a murder involving someone who is staying with Ingray's mother. It all works out in the end, however, with Ingray managing to impress her mother as planned, thwart the takeover of the government and also prevent a major diplomatic incident along the way.
I don't think there's ever going to be anything Ann Leckie writes that I don't enjoy, but it did feel like I'd read some of this before (for example, instead of zany alien translator, see zany alien ambassador via spider mech). I also felt a bit short-changed with Ingray, as I didn't really care about what happened to her in the same way I felt about Breq and the others in the previous books. If anything, it was the supporting characters of Tic and Garat that I wanted to know more about, Tic in particular (if you'll pardon the semi-pun!), and their experiences. Anyway, I still enjoyed Provenance and look forward to seeing what comes next: fantasy, I believe, rather than science fiction? *rubs hands*