Review: A Memory Called Empire

As far as new science fictional worlds go, Arkady Martine has built something that truly stands out.


Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.


I went into this novel with extremely high hopes. My husband had heard about it on a podcast and told me that it needed to be the next thing I read. He was not wrong about that. It wasn’t quite the next thing I read, but I did immediately put it on hold at the library. I did a fun little jig when it came off hold and was ready for pick up just in time for my mini vacation a few weeks back. Once I was able to devote time to reading it, I devoured this story.

Martine has some serious world building chops, and every ounce of talent is on brilliant display here. I could go on for pages about her naming scheme for the Teixcalaanli Empire, but I have a feeling I’d lose a few readers. Needless to say, I seriously hope for many more novels that explore the universe Martine is building in A Memory Called Empire.

‘I am Six Helicopter,’ said the man—Mahit stared at him, and wondered when he’d learned to say his name with not only a straight face but with that degree of smugness.

Arkady Martine

While this is definitely a speculative fiction novel, there is some pretty intense science fictional creativity throughout the novel, this novel has serious crossover potential with anyone who loves a good action story, a good thriller, a brilliant political intrigue, and even a good coming of age. I’d particularly love recommending this to people who are fans of political intrigue but hadn’t really gotten into the science fiction world, I can really see this novel making a whole lot of converts!

While a lot of what the reader needs to unpack in this novel is about how the mind works and what makes an individual an individual, I was also struck by the themes of what makes a person worthwhile and of how knowledge and history shape both a culture and a person. I don’t want to dive into a long essay about how knowledge and power intersect in this novel, but I do want to invite discussion on the subject – please get at me in the comments or in an email, I’d be so excited to have some really in depth conversations about this novel!

I rated this book an easy 5/5 Stars. I am so in love with the world that Martine is letting us live in, and can’t wait for the next time I can take a trip into the Empire. The last note I wrote when I finished reading was “I can’t believe I have to wait for more books, I just want to get lost in this world!”


Goodreads | Arkady Martine’s Website

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