RogerBW's Blog

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie 25 November 2014

Sequel to Ancillary Justice. Breq, now a Fleet Captain, travels to a backwater world to help assure its survival in the civil war.

This second volume doesn't try to be the same as its predecessor; it's a much smaller story than Ancillary Justice, taking place over a few weeks and mostly in a single star system, but the quality has not dropped from that first book. (After the disappointments of second-volumes Two Serpents Rise and Moon Over Soho I'm happier about this than is perhaps reasonable.)

There's even less in the way of Big Space Battles than last time. But there's much more about the Radch society; in particular, since Breq is now a member of it rather than an outsider, she and we are able to see clearly the significant problems within it which were not apparent to her in her previous lives.

Seivarden spends most of her time off-stage this time round, but Breq is not short of broken people with whom she has to work. A middle section is perhaps a little heavy-handed about coerced consent, and I was disappointed not to get more of the Translator, but I was probably supposed to be. The reference to everyone with female pronouns is continued, and people who have problems with that or who can't tell characters apart without gender cueing are not going to enjoy this book.

I didn't reread the first book before starting this one, and there isn't a huge amount of catching-up material, but I didn't feel lost; even so, I wouldn't recommend this as an entry point to the series. Apart from anything else, one would be depriving oneself of the gradual realisation of the situation that the first book provides. This book is probably easier to read, though, since Breq no longer has the constant multiple viewpoints of her previous life, and the story is told in order.

This is not explodey spaceship milsf; it's much closer to recent Bujold and comedies of manners, though with rather more of an edge since the underlying society is rather more rotten. It's a much quieter book than the first, but it's the quiet of a pot that's about to boil over.

To be followed by Ancillary Mercy.

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See also:
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie


  1. Posted by Chris Suslowicz at 05:01pm on 02 December 2014

    Also very much worth reading is the two part "She Commands Me And I Obey" story available on the Strange Horizons website. This includes some backstory involving the Itran Tetrarchy that is well worth having.

    I'm enjoying the series immensely.

    Chris.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 05:05pm on 02 December 2014

    Thanks! Links are http://strangehorizons.com/2014/20141110/commands-f.shtml and http://strangehorizons.com/2014/20141117/commands-f.shtml for anyone else who wants to catch up.

    I've not been wildly enthused about most new SF lately, but this series is one of the few things that's really worked supremely well for me.

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