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…
The novella has already been racking up some great reviews, too…
‘A science-fictional ode to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, where the Holmes figure is a sharp and biting disgraced aristocratic scholar with a solid core of empathy, and the Watson-figure is a mindship with post-traumatic stress disorder from her war experiences… This is a measured, almost stately story, right up until a conclusion that explodes in fast-paced tension. It preserves the empathy and the intensity of the original Sherlockian stories, while being told in de Bodard’s sharp prose and modern style. The worldbuilding… sparkles. The characters have presence: they’re individual and compelling. And it ends it a way that recalls the original Holmes and Watson, while being perfectly appropriate to itself.’ — Tor.com
‘De Bodard revisits her far-future Xuya universe setting with this gripping novella about damaged characters driven to search for the truth… De Bodard constructs a convincingly gritty setting and a pair of unique characters with provocative histories and compelling motivations. The story works as well as both science fiction and murder mystery, exploring a future where pride, guilt, and mercy are not solely the province of humans.’ — Publishers Weekly
‘De Bodard’s world building glitters, and her characters are deeply compelling… This is a really satisfying story, deeply invested in choosing to do the right thing – and in the importance of kindness. I strongly recommend it.’ — Locus