Arkady Martine’s opening space opera novel set in the Teixcalaanli Empire, A Memory Called Empire, won the Hugo Award, and my review judged it to be a worthy crown holder. That novel saw an outpost’s diplomat trainee thrust into high society and deal with a fused memory and treachery. Now Martine returns with “A Desolation Called Peace,” and this time our hero must negotiate with unreadable aliens poaching Empire ships on Empire’s fringe. The author is a superb world builder and the new setting comes vividly, and strangely, to life. As in the opening book, different characters lead the cleverlplot towards an accelerating finale. If I found the storyline of A Desolation Called Peace slightly less riveting than the first plot, I nonetheless read it in a white heat and thoroughly enjoyed it. A captivating two-volume space opera that feels as modern as it seems a nod to the classics.