A stand-alone SF novella.


Format: print

Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency

Page count: 156

Publishing year: 2017, originally published in Asimov’s 2015

The novella is set in de Bodard’s Xuya universe.

Suu Nuoc is a general in the Viet Dai Empire and also the Empress’s former lover. Now, he’s an investigator. The Grand Master of Design Harmony Bach Cuc has disappeared from her lab, leaving behind only her memory implants. Bach Cuc is a scientist and she’s working on reaching the Citadel of the Weeping Pearls. The Citadel vanished thirty years ago along with its builder, the Empress’s eldest and most headstrong child, Bright Princess Ngoc Minh, and her staff. It’s rumored that the Citadel, a space station, had very advanced tech and weapons. Tech that could turn the tide of the upcoming war. But the return of the Bright Princess Ngoc Minh would upset the court and many are against that. Suu Nuoc works with a mindship, The Turtle’s Gold Claw. The mindship is the Empress’s granddaughter.

When the Empress hears about Bach Cuc’s disappearance, she orders Suu Nuoc to investigate. She knows that the general isn’t in favor of the court because of his low birth and straightforward manner. She’s trying to ward off a war with the Nam Federation. They have stolen some of the Empress’s mindships and warped them against her.

Diem Huong was six when the Citadel vanished, taking her mother with it. Since then, her father has become a drunkard and she has become a brilliant engineer. Together with another engineer, she’s building a machine that will, hopefully, take her back to the Citadel and her mother.

Ngoc Ha is a younger princess. She adored and resented her oldest sister Ngoc Minh. She’s not sure if she wants her back. Her only child is the mind of the mindship, the Turtle’s Golden Claw. She felt that she was in the shadow of the Bright Princess.

This is a story about mothers and daughters and about sisters. Court intrigue and interpersonal relationships take the center stage. It’s also a mystery and there’s a war brewing in the background. For such a short novella, it has a lot going on and four POV characters. Still, it works.

It’s beautifully written, as is usual for de Bodard. The setting is very well developed, for example, the mem-implants that allow the high-born to consult their ancestors. Suu Nuoc doesn’t have them because he’s a commoner.

The ending was a bit abrupt and some things are left hanging.