I loved Provenance the first time I read it, focusing on Garal Ket and somewhat on Tic Uisine as being particular awesome points. I also enjoyed the gender-neutral characters included as a matter of course, and seeing something from outside the Radch, from a human point of view. Also, getting some screentime (so to speak) for the Geck! It’s all pretty awesome, but this time all of it was a background to Ingray’s journey, for me. If you’re used to Breq, she’s a much less put-together main character, and we also may feel less close to her as it isn’t a first-person narrative. Nonetheless, her journey to true self-sufficiency — and her healing from some of the wounds of a childhood spent competing with foster siblings — is great.
The book opens with her disastrous attempt to have a neman returned from Compassionate Removal (a sort of prison planet). The captain of the ship she’s about to travel on refuses to take anyone on board who isn’t fully consenting and aware of their destination, so the neman is awoken right there in the dock… and says e is not the person Ingray thought she asking for. Nonetheless, she ends up offering em the fake identity she bought to take that person home, and e ends up accepting — and throwing in with her to scam her family into believing e is the person she was hoping to find. Then the Geck get involved…
It’s an interesting society, which includes some stuff quite casually — part of adulthood is deciding on your gender and choosing your adult name! there is a third, officially recognised neutral gender! Ingray has a lesbian romance with a friend! — which I really enjoy as a) setting this planet apart from the Radch or from our own Earth, and b) the inclusiveness. The idea of the importance placed in this society upon “vestiges”, physical remnants that have been touched by one’s ancestors, is an interesting way to build up the society, too. Ingray’s relationship with her mother and brother are interesting and sad and ultimately rather affirming: despite mistakes made in the past, they remain a family and find a way through it all.
It remains a very enjoyable book, and I ate it up the second time as swiftly as I did the first. That said, if you’re looking for more of the Radch, or for a character more like Breq, this isn’t going to scratch the same itch.