A Memory Called Empire - Arkady Martine

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book but, I have to be honest, the pacing at times let A Memory Called Empire down a little. Still, that might be a little unfair for what is both a first novel and also the first in a trilogy with all the world-building requirements that entails. 

 

The basic premise of the book is that we follow the newly-appointed ambassador for Lsel Station who has been unexpectedly called to the heart of the nearby all-consuming Teixcalaan empire. On Lsel, it's traditional for the memories of past individuals to be paired with a new person on their death, so their experiences and expertise are passed on without subsuming the new 'host' and their own life. When Mahit is summoned, she is only able to be given an outdated version of the previous ambassador's memories and hastily packed off in a ship, only to discover on her arrival that the summons was due to her predecessor's murder. 

 

At this point, Yskander's previous memories stop working and Mahit is left to try and navigate the empire she admires and figure out just what Yskander did to get himself killed. This turns out to be offering the memory technology to a dying emperor who is desperate to continue to live through his clone, which is both unacceptable to Lsel and also considered immoral by the empire. In the background, there's also the threat of alien invasion which Mahit is eventually able to use to try and keep Lsel from being swallowed up. 

 

Overall, I really liked the clash of cultures taking place here, with Mahit as a big fan of Teixcalaan culture but eventually realising she can never quite fit in with them. I found it a little annoying that the potential clash between Yskander-as-was and the machinations of his older self were underplayed by the memory device malfunctioning at the least opportune time. As mentioned earlier, at times the pacing was a little uneven but in general I enjoyed A Memory Called Empire a lot and look forward to seeing where the rest of the story goes. 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.