And here is my first (unofficial) reading goal for the year accomplished! Upon finishing this 2015 novel, I have now concluded Ann Leckie’s highly acclaimed debut series.
Note: Since gender-based identifications are not emphasized in the main character’s society and language, the story uses only female pronouns, and so do I.
We resume our adventure as Breq and the crew of the Mercy of Kalr seek to restore order on Athoek Station following their confrontation with the Sword of Atagaris and Captain Hetnys. Faced with lingering unrest surrounding the fate of the station’s Undergarden community, Breq must determine the loyalties of the remaining administrators while preparing for the inevitable arrival of the hostile Anaander Mianaai’s forces. Complicating matters, however, is the arrival of an inquisitive new emissary from the Presger Empire, to whom Breq owes a complicated apology.
I liked this book, though upon reflection it felt a bit anticlimactic. Checking in at a brisk 368 pages, I wish it was a bit longer so that certain aspects of the story could have been addressed more thoroughly. The resolution of the Denche family drama and subsequent uprising among their plantation workers were mentioned only in passing even though they were central elements of Ancillary Sword. Likewise, I was also a bit surprised by how much Tisarwat and Seivarden (again) fell to the sidelines. Although each had their moments, though Tisarwat’s, which was a key part of the story, happened entirely off-screen and left the ending feeling a bit rushed and abrupt, not to mention uneventful, as a result. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that I did not get the major confrontation I was expecting.
Putting that aside, there was still a lot about this book that I enjoyed. Indeed, despite the criticisms above I had a hard time putting this down and finished it rather quickly. I particularly liked how the AI storyline developed and I always felt involved in what was going on, even in the moments where not much was happening (as others have noted, a lot of tea gets consumed in these pages). Another major factor in my enjoyment of this story was Breq, who more than capably carried most of the book on her own and impressively outmaneuvered just about everything the her opponents could throw at her. I also really enjoyed the two new characters, Sphene and Zeiat. For Sphene, it was really interesting to see Breq encounter a kindred spirit of sorts and have someone around who truly understands what she is planning. As for Zeiat, the new Presger translator, she was equal parts amusing and unnervingly creepy. Honestly I’m not even really sure how to describe her, other than by her aggressive, unbound curiosity about human society. Breq’s patience and nonchalance in her conversations with Zeiat, while everyone else watched on in horror, provided some of the highlights of the book for me, as did the long-running table game Sphene and Zeiat get into.
All told, I had a lot of fun reading this series even though I will say at this point that books two and three didn’t quite live up to the promise of the first. That said, I would still be willing to spend some more time in this universe if it was to expand, though. I liked the author’s message, I liked Breq, and I am very intrigued by what else the Radchaii and Presger Empires have to offer, so I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open.