The Tea Master and the Detective

Aliette de Bodard
The Tea Master and the Detective
Click the button for the HTML codes

Subterranean Press
Release Date
March 2018

Genre: Science Fiction

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…

Book Review by Ashia (reviewer)
Feb 06, 2018   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
119 people found the following review helpful
THE TEA MASTER AND THE DETECTIVE is a strangely compelling tale. Though I don't read much science fiction and a non-romance at that, I found myself turning the pages as I tried to solve the mystery of Long Chau together with The Shadow's Child.

A short intro for new readers like me: The Shadow's Child is a shipmind, a sentient being inhabiting a ship. Shipminds usually worked in the militia, but due to a tragic past, The Shadow's Child decided to leave, thus she's now having problems taking in work to support her rent. She makes blends for customers. Blends are a mixture of compounds that humans take in to calm their minds and help them when they go into deep space, for example. Well, that's the blend that's used here, so I'm not sure if there are other types of blends.

In any case, this customer--Long Chau--came in, wanting a blend to take for when she goes into deep space to retrieve a corpse for her studies. Long Chau irritated The Shadow's Child--Long Chau was arrogant and mysterious and The Shadow's Child felt unease around her, coupled with her terror of going back into deep space, where her tragic past occurred. When the corpse they retrieved appeared to be questionable, The Shadow's Child felt even more disturbed as she was dragged into the case.

I have to say that when I first started the story, I was a bit confused. I hadn't expected one of the main characters to be a shipmind, and that the entire story would be from her POV. But I think the author made the right call, as it was fascinating to see things from the shipmind's perspective and we get to even see that there's a shipmind community!

But I'm glad I stuck with it, because the worldbuilding is incredible. I feel like what is shown here is a mere drop in what the author has revealed to us about her world, and I can't wait to learn more. I love the Vietnamese culture against which this story is set, and also the Sherlock Holmes-inspired Long Chau and Watson a grumpy decommissioned war mindship.

The mystery is compelling, although I don't understand why Tuyet would be sent by her community into the same situation as Hai Anh. Maybe I missed something in the reading, so don't let this deter you. I certainly didn't!

While this story is certainly an original, I feel it's too short! We're given a glimpse into The Shadow's Child and Long Chau, and then the story is done. There's so much more about them that I want to know about, and I want the next book now. Please, let it be a full-length novel. :)

Update: Upon perusing the author's website, it's noted that this is a novella in The Universe of Xuya series, the 3rd book actually. Going to glom on the other two books! But let it be noted that I want more Long Chau and The Shadow's Child. Rating: 4.5 stars
Was this review helpful to you?   
Follow The Romance Reviews
Send us an email: carole @
Ⓒ 2010 - 2021 The Romance Reviews. All rights reserved.
December 07, 2021 09:38 PM ( EST )