Ancillary Sword (Ann Leckie)

Ancillary Sword is the second novel in the Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie.
Finished on: 17.7.2020
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Breq is now the captain of the Mercy of Kalr and she is supposed to the remote Athoek system to see what’s going on there – a mission she gladly accepts because Awn’s sister Basnaaid is there as well. Not that Anaander Mianaai, the Lord of the Radch, left her much choice. She also forced Breq to take on a young lieutenant, Tisarwat, for the mission. But something is off about Tisarwat. And there is also something strange going on in Athoek. Breq is determined to see that justice is restored for everyone.

Ancillary Sword is much less plot-driven and much more character-driven than Ancillary Justice. This change of pace may not agree with everyone, but it certainly agreed with me: I am very content with just deep-diving into Breq’s personality.

The book cover showing a spaceship over a space station.

Ancillary Sword tackles big topics again: imperialism and colonialism have to feature front and center given the nature of the Raadch and Leckie does a good job delving into the problems that come with creating an empire that stretches over many star systems and that forcibly annexed so many cultures and planets.

But even more important here in this book is the question of justice. Breq has a strong sense of justice and an urge to restore it whereever she can. She is also in a position of power now that does give her some opportunity to do so. But she shows little delicacy in her quest and can’t accept that some wrongs may not be possible to right. Or that sometimes justice makes things worse, at least for some people (and whose justice are we talking about anyway?). It’s also questionable how much justice can actually be achieved when the entire system is so completely unjust. Don’t Breq’s interventions in the name of justice ultimately prop up this system?

It’s a layered and complex look at this issue that provides us both with fodder for thought and a deeper look at Breq as a person, as an AI. Since I’m pretty much in love with Breq, I was happy to get this exploration, but I can imagine that others would have liked a little more plot advancement.

That is not to say that the plot doesn’t go anywhere. At the end of the book, big things are in motion – things that promise much for the last novel in the trilogy. But am I ready to see my time with Breq coming to an end?

Summarizing: Great sequel, great series.

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