This is my first foray into reading anything by Aliette de Bodard. The beautifully written novella made me curious to read more of her work!
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.
A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.
As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…
If Sherlock were an Asian woman in space, and Watson was a sentient spaceship, this would be the story of their first meeting and first case together. (Just days after I wrote this review, I found this quote on Aliette’s Goodreads profile: “my ‘Sherlock Holmes if Holmes were an eccentric scholar and Watson a grumpy discharged war mindship’ book” how funny is that)
Set in her Universe of Xuya, The Tea Master and the Detective, is similar in tone and flavor to Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of the Empire series. They’re very different stories, but fans of one may find lots to like in the other.
I really enjoyed The Tea Master and the Detective. The story was interesting and kept pulling me along. I’m definitely interested in exploring more of this universe. I’d recommend The Tea Master and the Detective for a time when you can sit and read the whole thing at once or in one or two sessions. Trying to read it in broken chunks on my work breaks didn’t work well for me.
I received an eARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.