What if you once had thousands of bodies and near god-like technology at your disposal? And what if all of it were ripped away?
The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go -- to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn's sister works in Horticulture.
Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized -- or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station's AI is unhappy with the situation, and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what's going on. With no guarantees that interest is benevolent.
This was unexpected! And not in a good way. It felt like a very different book from Ancillary Justice, though the overall morality of the worldbuilding is the same. Unlike the first book, this one is set (mostly) all in one place, during one time period, with negligible character growth and no redemption arc/quest. It does add lots of interesting tidbits to the world of the Imperial Radch, like details about certain colonies and the people who live on them. It also delves more into class structure, racism/colonialism/classism, and how one person coming down from on high won’t fix everything, which I liked.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like almost everything else, despite the compelling writing style. Breq in particular was disappointing.She’s turned into, like, this super-perfect judge who doesn’t make any mistakes and who knows all the answers. She does acknowledge that she can’t fix everything, and the way she fixes things won’t always be the most desired outcome, which was good. But it still felt a little…boring? She has such an emotional journey in the first book and I didn’t really see that much emotional development here, except for a few small parts with some secondary characters.
I also wish there had been more development with the split Lord of the Radch problem; we get very little here, and even then I think the most important part came right at the end. It’s a super-focused story about one colony and one set of people and I think that might be to its detriment (at least when compared to Ancillary Justice).
Soooo I just didn’t like Ancillary Sword as much as Ancillary Justice. I think the first book hit me so powerfully that repeating the experience was going to be almost impossible and so I ended up disappointed. That said, I do think that if/when I reread it, I’ll like it a lot more than I did this first time. It seems like the kind of book that gets better with rereadings!
Read: August 25-26, 2015