RogerBW's Blog

Dust, Elizabeth Bear 30 July 2022

2007 SF, first of a trilogy. Rien is a castle servant, told off to look after the prisoner Perceval. Only it's all much more real than that.

Because this is a far future of rampant nanotech, which has been made by humans to recreate (at least approximately) their own legends. Perceval is a knight on a quest; she's also a (literally) blue-blooded noble; and her symbiotic wings have been cut off using an "unblade" adapted from medical equipment. Oh, and we're on a starship.

The primary thrust of the book, for me at least, was this sense of wonder: there are "angels" who are parts of the ship's AI, but someone decided that they should be called angels. The Exalt who rule over the Mean have split the ship into "domaines" that they pass down by primogeniture, and there's a lot of Arthuriana wedged into what clearly used to be a technological culture.

There's no infodumping, but the first half to two-thirds of the book are basically picaresque, introducing the reader to this world and its various perils. In turn this means that there's less time than I'd like spent on the characters, to whom some details of the world may be surprising but who basically grew up here and take most things for granted.

Towards the end, things start to happen, and nobody gets what they want but at least the ship is saved. Yay, I guess.

There's some of the gothic weird ship stuff of Revelation Space and some of the nobles feuding of Amber but this does take on its own flavour too. It's a lovely tour of an interesting world; but it didn't grab me the way I'm clearly meant to be grabbed.

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