It’s been quite a while since I read Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie’s first novel in what turned out the be a trilogy. So I began Ancillary Sword with a little confusion. It starts off assuming the reader has a working knowledge of the world, as most sequels do, and I had read Justice so quickly that it took some prodding (and some reading of synopses) to remember how we had got to the beginning of Sword. Which is not at all to the book’s deficit, of course: in fact, it starts only a few hours after the previous ends, which I really enjoy in sequels.
However, after getting over the initial bumps of remembering, the story seemed to me to be more of a bridge between the first and third novels than as a story in its own right. There’s plenty of set up for multiple huge conflicts to play out in the next instalment, but the story in this novel seems pat by comparison.
Breq Mianaai is sent on a mission to the far-flung Athoek system, which grows most of the tea for the entire Radch. Once there, Breq finds a lot of injustice at the hands of those in power against the residents of the Undergarden, decks of the main Station that are in disrepair, as well as against the fieldworkers on the planet, and I appreciated Leckie’s treatment of the subject of justice after a colonization as both nuanced and unafraid. But Breq herself feels almost like a Mary Jane character in that she’s able to know every other character’s thoughts and feelings and is hardly ever wrong. The middle of the book was a little bit of a slog as she went downwell1 to look into a situation with the daughter of a local beourgeois while in mourning for the alien Presger translator (whose death went unavenged in this novel, which I can only assume means it’ll come to a head next novel) and got lost in local politics.
I think I understand what Leckie’s driving at here: all politics are important, and all politics are local, but I was really hoping for more of the large-scale intrigue that I remember from Ancillary Justice. This book was smaller in scope, which I was not prepared for. I’m hopeful for a lot of action and galaxy-spanning conflict for the third, however, and I think Leckie will deliver. She’s a strong writer with great ideas.
I really like this term in its colloquialness referring to the gravity well of a planet; it’s little things like this that really make a world real.↩︎