Book Reviews

Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee

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Released: June 2019
Publisher: Solaris
Pages: 400
Rating: 4/5

An outstanding collection of short stories, novellas, and prose set within the Machineries of Empire universe.


The summary on Goodreads says it far better than I could:

The essential short story collection set in the universe of Ninefox Gambit.

An ex-Kel art thief has to save the world from a galaxy-shattering prototype weapon… A general outnumbered eight-to-one must outsmart his opponent… A renegade returns from seclusion to bury an old comrade…

From the incredible imagination of Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke nominated author Yoon Ha Lee comes a collection of stories set in the world of the best-selling Ninefox Gambit. Showcasing Lee’s extraordinary imagination, this collection takes you to the very beginnings of the hexarchate’s history and reveals new never-before-seen stories. 


If you haven’t read the Machineries of Empire series, or at the very least Ninefox Gambit, most of these probably won’t be as enjoyable for you as they were for me. There were a few self-contained stories (including the stellar first one), but probably not enough of them for first time Yoon Ha Lee readers. This was definitely written for fans of the trilogy.

The collection ranged from short story and flash fiction, to prose, to novella. Some were previously published in other works while there were a few original stories as well. They showed a range that I hadn’t really expected from this author, especially when it came the humour- several of them made me laugh out loud! There was obviously humour before, but this time it was without as much heaviness looming in the background.

At the end of each tale the author adds a note giving the history and thought processes behind them. There was a lot of humour here as well. It truly gives the reader a glimpse inside his mind and provides an added dimension to the Machineries universe.

What I enjoyed the most, though, was how much clarity these stories gave to the Hexarchate and the characters within it. I feel like I now have a much stronger grasp of the universe and the motivations of the characters we’ve previously been introduced to, especially Cheris and Jedao. Plus that timeline at the beginning is something all Yoon Ha Lee fans need to have printed out and up on their walls for constant reference when reading the Machineries books.

There are a lot of stories so I won’t break them all down, but my favourites were:

  • The delightful yet bittersweet short stories covering Jedao’s childhood, especially “Silence.” Silence was told from his older brother Rodao’s point of view, about the subtle changes only he seemed to notice in Jedao after he became a cadet. The last paragraph was a bit of a gutpunch:
    “Fourteen years later, when I heard of Hellspin Fortress, I’d discovered how badly I’d fucked up by keeping quiet; and then, of course, it was too late to fix anything.”
  • The Battle of Candle Arc,” a superb tale that really highlights the ingenuity and battle genius of Jedao. Despite being outnumbered 8-to-1 and still recovering from a brutal assassination attempt, he successfully won a campaign that even his own officers thought was hopeless. You can see why they kept his consciousness alive for so many centuries despite the slaughter he caused at Hellspin Fortress.
    • A bit of trivia for you! “The Battle of Candle Arc” was the first published story within the Machineries universe (although Ninefox Gambit was written first)
  • There were several flash fiction stories about Cheris’ childhood and her unique relationship with the servitor robots. The ones told from the servitors’ point of view were wonderful, and this is coming from someone terrified of sentient AI. I especially loved “The Robot’s Math Lessons,” a satisfying short about Cheris becoming math buddies with a cleanup servitor she encounters on a beach.
  • My absolute favourite, though, was the thoroughly engaging novella that ends the collection, “Glass Cannon.” Glass Cannon is not only a phenomenal finale to this collection, but is also a sequel to Revenant Gun that provides some much needed closure for fans of Cheris and Jedao’s complicated relationship. It completely blew me away. I’m definitely going to be re-reading it, and often.


Hexarchate Stories is a wondrous collection of stories set within the Machineries of Empire universe. It was a seriously fun and enlightening tour into the mind of Yoon Ha Lee, one I’m really glad I was given a chance to go on. The only reason I haven’t rated the collection higher is that it’s for a very niche audience- an audience that has to be fairly familiar with the author’s previous works.

An added bonus is now that I’ve finished Hexarchate Stories, I have a much stronger appreciation for the Machineries universe. I actually feel like I know what’s going on and that I better understand the characters, which wasn’t something I felt often when reading the trilogy previously. This is definitely essential reading for other fans of the universe.

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9 thoughts on “Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee”

    1. To be fair I only started reading the trilogy this year. I think we talked about it before, that it can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s definitely worth it! These stories certainly helped, too.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be totally honest here, I never used to bother with short stories or novellas because there are so many full length books on my ever expanding TBR. I received a few novellas and collections this year through NetGalley and I have to say I’m a convert, even when there have been some I didn’t like. I feel bad for not giving this genre a chance before!

      Liked by 1 person

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