A Desolation Called Peace, Arkady Martine – Book Review

Hello Humans! 2021 has been a mixed bag of reading so far with a heck of a lot of rereads and some amazing sequels. One such sequel is A Desolation Called Peace for which I was ridiculously excited. I’m going to make a full video review for this one with all the thoughts and feelings but for those who prefer the written format of review I thought I’d try and condense some feelings here.

This is a spoiler free review for this book but if you don’t want spoilers for A Memory Called Empire then go away cause this is a direct sequel and it will spoil things!

Goodreads Summary:

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.

Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.

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I’ll kick off with the pressing question – do you need to reread A Memory Called Empire to read this? On the one hand this is quite a different book in terms of location and plot, and in theory you could get away with as much as remembering the names and roles of some of the characters. But my heart says that if you have any opportunity or excuse to reread the first book you should grab it with both hands. I do honestly think this is a series that gets better and better with each reread so that’s one benefit – but also the events of this book do directly draw from the events of book one and you’ll just have an all around better time if you remind yourself firmly of what’s going on. I didn’t read them back to back but I’d read the first book within enough time that I knew what was going on.

With that question cleared up let’s look at the book! I’ll start by saying that, though the plot is quite different, if you loved the first book I guarantee you will enjoy the second. It has that same gorgeously evocative writing style, those same cutting themes, those same amazing characters…and this book just gives you even more. We get new characters and new perspectives and new ideas. After seeing the Texicalaanli world in book one we get to see them at war, a whole different beast. I love a second book that takes things from the first book and just expands and that’s definitely what we see in this sequel.

I think the themes are probably one of the strongest aspects of this book. I would definitely recommend finding a friend with whom to read this because there’s something extra special about spotting something really subtle (and also glaringly obvious) about the plot or themes and then immediately chatting about it and developing theories and ideas. This series has always had strong themes and a strong message at it’s core and again those ideas are pulled out in such an interesting way across this book.

This plot is also fantastic. In a lot of ways there are a lot of scifi tropes in this story but the way that they combine and their context within the themes and worldbuilding means that nothing ever feels predictable and it all feels interesting. I remarked at one point that around 50% of the way through the book I still had absolutely no idea which of my various theories as to where the story was going would actually happen – and I loved it.

I have briefly mentioned the characters but I will say it again – I loved them all. They all felt very distinct and one thing I liked is that you quite often get a characters perspective and then you’ll see that character through the eyes of a different perspective which all feels very powerful – and you know I like reading a book where I know more than the main characters do! There’s familiar faces from the first book, obviously, and a host of new characters I know people are just going to love (and some that might be a wee bit scary).

I will say, though it isn’t a negative thing for me, that the chapters in this book are very long, essentially combining multiple POV sections into one chapter. That’s not something that bothers me but I thought I would mention it so you can be prepared going in. I wouldn’t think ‘ooh I’ve got 5 minutes I’ll just get another chapter done really quickly’ – it will not happen.

I loved this book and I am very excited to get to talk about it with more people once it is out!

My rating: 5/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.

A Desolation Called Peace is out March 2nd!

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