Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Book Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Pros: fascinating characters, interesting narrative approach, develops new world-building aspects

Cons: character driven

A week after the events of Ancillary Justice, Breq, now fleet captain and assigned to Mercy of Kalr, departs on Anaander Mianaai’s orders to Athoek to make sure the system stays safe.  In addition to her experienced lieutenants, Seivarden and Ekalu (of the Kalr), she has a new 17 year old one, Tisarwat, to train.  Once they arrive at the station, they find a suspicious captain, disturbed by the lack of communication after the attack on Omaugh Palace and the destruction of several gates, racial tensions, and minor issues covering larger problems that need to be addressed. 

As with the first book, the real aspect of interest is in how Breq sees the world.  You don’t get flash backs to when she was Justice of Toren, though that’s often in her thoughts, instead you get her trying to keep up with frequent run downs of the sort of information she would have have had instantaneously as a ship, sent to her by her ship, Mercy of Kalr.  It’s an interesting way of seeing things, and allows Breq to pretend she’s still one part of a larger whole while also being a narrative means of showing the reader what’s happening in places outside Breq’s physical sphere.  There is a plot, but in many ways this feels like a character driven novel because Breq’s presence is so overpowering.  If you don’t like her unique way of seeing the world, you won’t enjoy this book.

Breq comes across as a tough as nails captain.  Sometimes she’s too tough, pushing her crew beyond what she should, something I suspected would eventually cause her problems, but her extensive experience means she’s able to pull back at just the right moment.  Even knowing what Breq was trying to do, I thought she was too hard on Tisarwat at times.  Not only had the lieutenant been through a traumatic experience with little recovery time, she’s given little to no positive reinforcement when she does things right.  So while Tisarwat was an interesting character, seeing her through Breq’s eyes made her less sympathetic than she probably deserved to be.  It was fun seeing her grow up and mature.

I was a little surprised at the number of secrets she kept from her crew, her true identity as Justice of Toren and what happened with Tisarwat being the main ones, but it does make sense that the crew might balk at such things, so keeping them secret probably made sense.

There’s more information about how the military works and there’s a unique supporting cast.  I enjoyed learning more about the military and political politics, both between the ships but also how it applies to a station and planet once they get to Athoek.  I’m hoping we learn more about the Presger in the next book.  What little was revealed here merely whet the appetite.

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