Provenance by Ann Leckie
Orbit Books, 2017. ISBN 9780356506968
(Age: Adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Science fiction, Coming of age, Power, Sibling rivalry, Theft, Alien culture. Ingray, in a desperate bid to outwit her brother and impress her mother the Netano, frees a thief from Compassionate Removal, a prison planet from which nobody has ever returned. She returns home to her planet where she finds things are unsettled and when she is the first on the scene of a murder in a public park, danger escalates.
This is a stand-alone novel set in the Imperial Radch universe, where her award winning Ancillary Justice was based, but it is not necessary to have read any of the other novels that the author has written. The background of the space station, the alien Geck, the strange customs of collecting artefacts and the family dynamics are all vividly described, but it is the character and action of Ingray that grabs the reader's attention and keeps it focused on the story. At first glance Ingray seems to be rather an ineffectual young woman, a bit prone to losing her hair pins and crying, but as Captain Tic comments, give her 10 minutes to fall apart and then she will come up with an outlandish but workable solution to any problem that is facing her. The problems include getting a thief off an inaccessible planet, solving a murder, being diplomatic with an important Geck ambassador and rescuing her mother and orphan children when they are held captive by an invading army.
The family dynamics are fully fleshed out, with Ingray desperate to gain her foster mother's attention, while putting her brother Danach in his place. As the story progresses so does Ingray's growth in understanding of what she wants for herself and what is the best position for her in the family. A fascinating side plot is the reverence that artefacts hold for members of the planet, and the fact that they could be fraudulent but still important in the eyes of the populace.
Provenance introduced me to the author, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards, and I will definitely be picking up her first three books,