The stunning conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning Ancillary Justice.
For a moment, things seemed to be under control for Breq, the soldier who used to be a warship. Then a search of Athoek Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, and a messenger from the mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai - ruler of an empire at war with itself.
Breq refuses to flee with her ship and crew, because that would leave the people of Athoek in terrible danger. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.
I began this book with a lot of trepidation. I remembered the basic plot and loved the characters from Ancillary Justice
and Ancillary Sword
), but didn't remember the specifics. I simply didn’t have enough time to re-read the previous books, and I was also very afraid that Breq would sacrifice herself for the Greater Good.
These particular qualms were soon sorted out -- but there were other issues. Perhaps the
biggest fault of Ancillary Mercy
is that it’s not the first book. The same world building that hits you like lightning in the first book is old hat by now. For the first 25% of the book, I felt I was reading about the same situation again: a kind of ceasefire at the Athoek Station, where Fleet Captain Breq’s ship is stationed, and her crew is waiting for something ominous to come out of the neighbouring ghost gate.
I expected full-blown war. I expected the alien Presger forces to come rushing in. I expected Anaander Mianaai to show a dozen more faces. And Breq to save the day (and die, of course, let’s not forget that part). Well, if not Breq, then Seivarden.
None of this happens. The Presgers decide that the treaty is important to them, so truce trumps warmongering. Anaander loses face because of the former. And Seivarden is left looking like a flashy puppy dog, loyal, but still useless.
Make no mistake, Leckie writes as well as always. The politics, the economy, the military, the civilian life, everything is blended and intertwined seamlessly, as I have seldom read in books. In the first two books we saw Leckie’s “breadth" of imagination, now we see its "depths".
Like its predecessor Ancillary Sword
, Ancillary Mercy
is a micro-cosmic book. It is also a book about bonding, more than wars. We talk of ships and their preferences for captains. We talk of Breq’s crew and see how they rely on Breq’s penchant for songs even before their emergency ops mission. We speak of ambassadors and conclaves and choosing sides before
the real battle begins. [Side Note: Umm, is there even a battle going to happen?
] We talk of small actions cascading into something larger in the long run. We speak of ordinary people managing praiseworthy endeavours and how that may be more than enough.
Leckie's use of “she” as the common gender pronoun for all beings continues to trip you over subconsciously. An illustration - when a particular character is described as “beautiful” and later as “crying”, did the mind flash it as "male"? Even while you are reading the book, your mind unconsciously keeps trying to tag the voice with a gender, and there is no craftier way than Leckie's to subvert gender stereotypes.
Though the very weird Presgers and the sarcastic Sphene are mixed in for delightful comic effect, always, always, everything has a darker tone running underneath. I felt continuously that some disaster was looming, but that disaster didn’t really happen. I also felt that the ending was a bit predictable, and it didn’t sing with my head like the first two books did. What does it say about me, I wonder, that I expected a violent ending, and feel sort of cheated when I got a positive outcome instead?
NOW. WHEN CAN WE HAVE THE BOOK ABOUT THE BATTLE?
Rating: 8/10. Recommended.