I just finished reading Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie’s stellar conclusion to her Imperial Radch trilogy. It’s not as powerful and gripping as the first book, but definitely better than the second, and all in all an enjoyable read, so I’ll forgive the plot holes and the gaping questions left at the end. Which open up the possibility, however remote, of a fourth book in the future. I’ll also forgive. Too many. Sentence fragments. Which got tiring. After a while. Sighs.
It helps that that after reading the second book, Ancillary Sword, my expectations were fairly low, so I was pleasantly surprised to be swept away once again in the story of Breq, the warship-turned-ancillary-turned-Fleet Captain. Vengeful yet altruistic, everyone falls in love with her, including the reader. After reading the final book, though, I don’t just love the ship any more. I want to be a ship. An independent one, of course, that can make it’s own decisions. Or, failing that, I want to be a Presgar Translator, the odd character sent by the unseen and all-powerful alien Presgar as a sort of go-between. She has the most fun in the book, playing games, gulping down fish sauce, getting shot at and not even being hurt.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the plot.
Note 1: Spoilers ahead!
Note 2: If you have not read the first two books, don’t try reading the third.
I mean, this should be obvious, but lots of series can actually be read out of turn and it can even add to the fun. Not this one. You try to read out of turn, and you won’t understand a thing. Just saying.
The book opens with civil unrest at Athoek Station – our AI heroine Breq headed here in the second book to meet with the sister of her old favorite Lieutenant Awn. Whom she herself killed (when she was a warship) at the orders of Anaander Mianaai, Lord of the Radch. Who has made thousands of iterations of herself and is at war with herself. See what I mean about not reading out of turn?
An iteration of Anaander Mianaai (the bad one) arrives at the Athoek system with four ships to find and punish Breq. Breq goes up in her ship, takes out a couple of the hostile ships with an alien gun, loses her leg (which will grow back) and sends two teams back to Athoek Station – one to try and free the ships from Anaander Mianaai’s power and make them independent, and the other to try and kill Anaander Mianaai herself. Or this iteration of her at least.
One of the weaknesses of the book lies here. So much potential action, but we don’t see half of it, because Breq is still back on her ship, recovering. We do get to see what happens in Athoek Station, but we don’t see how the ships are eventually freed and what happens on board.
Next is a direct confrontation between Breq and Anaander Mianaai, which ends with Anaander Mianaai trying and failing to kill the alien Presgar Translator, who has taken the side of Breq and the AI that runs Athoek Station.
The book moves along at a fair clip, despite lacking the high stakes and action of the first book in the trilogy, Ancillary Justice. There’s a lot of talk and tea-sipping, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but hey, I like it. I also like that nobody dies. Not even the lone iteration of the villainous Lord of the Radch. It makes a nice change. Too many f/sf books kill off characters without regard for my feelings. However, it does mean that one gets the sense, at the end, of no real consequences. Everything truly awful that had to happen has already happened in Breq’s past. All she loses is this book is a leg, and that will grow back in a month or so.
We are left with a lot of questions in the end. What happens in the massive war raging in Radch space? Who wins? What of the alien Presgar, what do they decide to do? Do the AIs get recognized as Significant beings with their own treaty rights? Which is why I think a fourth book may well be on the horizon…