RogerBW's Blog

Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie 21 November 2015

2015 SF, sequel to Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. Fleet Captain Breq is still on Athoek Station, but there are plenty of problems even without the civil war coming closer.

There's civil disobedience and factional fighting on the station. An ancillary from another ship shows up, as does another translator for the incomprehensible alien Presger. And Anaander Mianaai herself, ruler of the Radch, is on the way, and probably not well-inclined towards Breq. The obvious thing to do would be to flee, but Breq isn't just a focused element in the military any more: she has friends.

Breq wasn't expecting to have people in her life who actually liked her, and since the narrative is from her point of view we see her gradual realisation of what's going on. A lot of it is deliberately unspoken, but people's actions show their feelings even if nobody can say anything about them. Seivarden, largely absent from the second book, is more of a presence here, and Tisarwat also returns; the overall scale feels slightly larger than Sword, though not as huge as Justice. There is still tea.

This book also has one of the best treatments I've read of a subject that's dear to my heart, but I'm going to wrap that in rot13 because it's such a pleasure when one comes upon it in context: gur negvsvpvny vagryyvtraprf bs guvf jbeyq unir orra gerngrq nf guvatf fvapr gur ortvaavat, jvgu inevbhf bs Nannaqre Zvnannv noyr gb phg guvatf bhg bs gurve pbtavgvba ng jvyy, ohg Oerd qrpvqrf gb phg guebhtu gur xabg naq oybpx nyy rkgreany bireevqrf, fb gung gurl pna znxr gurve bja qrpvfvbaf. Guvf vf, bs pbhefr, n fynir eroryyvba, sebz fynirf jub jrer ohvyg abg gb or noyr gb guvax bs eroryyvba. Vg'f ornhgvshy, naq vgf vzcyvpngvbaf sbe rirelbar ner pbafvqrerq engure guna yrsg unatvat.

It's a truism that it's easier to write earlier volumes in a series than later ones: the early ones set up mysteries and tension, the later ones resolve them, and resolving things while staying interesting is hard work. Leckie gets this right, and while this is the end of the trilogy it doesn't wrap everything up neatly with all the good guys happy and the bad guys dead. There will still be problems in the world, but local victories have been won and there's hope for the future.

This is a story about vengeance and restitution, and the balance between them. It's a story about damaged people and how they heal. It's a bloody good story.

(This work is eligible for the 2016 Hugo Awards.)

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See also:
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie

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