Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de BodardThe Tea Master and the Detective (The Universe of Xuya) by Aliette de Bodard

Published by Subterranean Press on March 31st 2018
Also by this author: In the Vanishers’ Palace, Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders, The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, Fireheart Tiger, Seven of Infinities, Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances, The Red Scholar's Wake
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 96
Format: ebook

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...

It’s probably no secret that I adore Aliette’s writing and with my love for tea, it’s not a difficult guess to figure out why I picked up The Tea Master and the Detective. I don’t read much science-fiction but Aliette can sell me anything. Like a female Sherlock Holmes with Watson’s role being played by a mindship. Does it work? Yes, it works perfectly.

Also, a mindship who’s profession it is to brew tea? They have to make money somehow, right? I like how The Shadow’s Child has an unlikely occupation but it totally makes sense in the universe.

It’s not your typical murder mystery with this setting, new technologies, and interesting characters. The two unlikely characters, Long Chau and The Shadow’s Child, work even better together than they both initially expected. Even with the different goals, they both shared an interest in how the crew members ended up dead. The dynamic between the two is full of banter and I appreciate how she shows us the world through their conversations as well as some exposition. It’s not a long book but you know the how the world works before it ends. Doing all of that and telling a story takes skill.

I give The Tea Master and the Detective five stars. The creativity of the story and the setting are complemented by Aliette’s writing skills. I absolutely adore reading her work no matter how long or short it is. Subpress has announced a new book in the same universe by Aliette de Bodard and I’m super excited to read it. If it’s anything like The Tea Master and the Detective I know I’m going to love it.

If you like fantasy, you should check out my review of Aliette de Bodard’s In The Vanishers’ Palace.

About Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy of Aztec noir fantasies, as well as numerous short stories which have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. Her space opera books include The Tea Master and the Detective, a murder mystery set on a space station in a Vietnamese Galactic empire, inspired by the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Recent works include the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (Roc/Gollancz, 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace/Gollancz, 2017 European Science Fiction Society Achievement Award, Locus award finalist). (Photo taken by Lou Abercrombie)

2 thoughts on “Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

  1. Bhagpuss says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I was going to say that Aliette de Bodard is a new name to me but looking at the covers of her books I recognize the Dominion of the Fallen series as something we have in the Y.A. section in the bookshop where I work. I don’t think we have her books in SF but I haven’t looked after that section for a couple of years so I could be wrong. Given she’s a Nebula award winner we probably do.

    Anyway, adding her name to my list of authors I should try.

    • Tessa Hastjarjanto says:

      Please do! She’s a fantasy author I recommend often, but her SF is amazing too. I don’t why Dominion of the Fallen is in the YA section though. I’d put it in adult, but I’ve only read a quarter of the first book and a short story.

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