Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)
By: Ann Leckie
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
For a moment, things seem to be under control for the soldier known as Breq. Then a search of Atheok Station’s slums turns up someone who shouldn’t exist – someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that’s been hiding beyond the empire’s reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and 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.
Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren’t good, but that’s never stopped her before.
Haha, it seems like my thing every year since 2014 to read one of the books from the Imperial Radch trilogy as part of Sci-Fi Month. Well, here we are, at the last book of the trilogy. Just a brief recap I really enjoyed the first novel (review) and thought the second one was all right (review) but got bogged down with some of the smaller-level politics happening on the station when really I wanted to know more about Breq’s struggle with Anaander Mianaai. With the trilogy wrapping up in this final volume, I’m hoping it’ll shift back focus to the larger conflict.
Well, now, that was interesting. Events pick up relatively quickly from where Ancillary Sword ended, picking up the pieces but preparing for Breq’s final confrontation with Anaander Mianaai and all the craziness that she had unleashed from the first novel. Whilst it was easy to slip back into the world that the author had created with this novel, it did take a while to get back into the swing of the characters, their allegiances and head spaces and how they were either going to help or hinder Breq in her quest to confront her enemy. But the varying characterisations and the things that each of these characters were dealing with was interesting in the face of the final confrontation, their strengths and weaknesses. I can’t remember if the previous books utilised a POV other than Breq’s but here I can see the necessity for it as secondary characters like Seivarden come into their own here.
The novel is very much as character-driven as before, and perhaps it stood out moreso in my mind as I was reading it than the plot, alongside the themes. The theme of an AI walking and acting like a human, forming bonds with other sentinent beings as opposed to going through the motions was interesting and definitely a highlight here, as are themes of doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals–or your revenge–and whether new knowledge about a person (i.e. the fact that Breq was a ship once) changes the way you perceive a person. The trilogy has been a learning curve for Breq, as the final chapter highlighted.
Having said that, the plot seemed…I don’t know, on the one hand the plot was a definite upgrade from the previous novel, finally shifting focus back on Anaander and the madness that she’s unleashed on the empire. On the other hand, I’m not sure, by the time it got to the climax and the final confrontation, it sort of pewtered out rather than end on some epic note. After all, Breq has been determined to get back at Anaander since the first novel…I suppose with all the build-up, I was expecting more from the pay-off (perhaps fitting it reflects the title of this novel, but still).
Despite of this, Ancillary Mercy ends the trilogy on full circle, namely with the characters and where they find themselves at the end of it all. Breq has learned much throughout her journey, and at the end finds herself with a group of people who care and respect her (as opposed to where she started, alone and struggling to survive). I still rank it as a very imaginative trilogy on the whole with the possibilities of science fiction, and definitely worth checking out if you’re into science fiction with good characterisation.