It took me way longer to really get into A Desolation Called Peace than it did A Memory Called Empire. Part of the problem in A Desolation Called Peace is that there are too many different groups and places that take almost ¾ of the novel to really come together. I get that that is a technique for suspense, but it doesn’t work terribly well here, especially when Mahit’s thread has so little to do with everything else which actually does eventually connect. It feels like Mahit is only present for a good bit of this story because she was the main protagonist from the previous novel. Really, the main characters of the first part are Three Seagrass and Nine Hibiscus. There are some references to the previous novel, and some characters make brief reappearances, but it doesn’t always seem to have much of a point.
I got bored and put the book down for a couple of weeks but when I picked it back up, after pushing through a few chapters things got interesting again. Once Eight Antidote really starts becoming a main character, the action and interest picks up again until the end. Twenty Cicada also becomes increasingly important, and his part in finally settling the first contact/war problem that started the whole novel ends up being pretty interesting.
Besides all the characters and trying to figure all of them out, there are basically three different plots, again only two of which really connect by the end. There’s Mahit and her imago Yskandr, and the probability of her having been sabotaged deliberately and the politics on her home Lsel Station (this is the bit that doesn’t really fit), there’s the war/first contact scenario that Nine Hibiscus and Twenty Cicada are a part of, and then there’s the general political stuff that Eight Antidote starts out at and he eventually ends up getting involved in the war bit as a result. Sixteen Moonrise is also a connecting factor between the politics and war stuff, but because she’s set up more as an antagonist, and we never get much about her or from her perspective otherwise, she’s not nearly as interesting or important.
The world of Texicalaan is still here but it’s a lot less of a presence and that’s kind of aa shame since that’s part of what made the first novel so interesting, but on the other hand the point of exploring language and shared consciousness nay not have worked as well in that setting. Honestly, I think that few bits from the alien perspective and the stuff relating to shared consciousness (related but not exclusively to the aliens) just wasn’t as interesting or literarily meshed with everything else.