Book Review: Ancillary Sword ☆☆☆

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. – Goodreads

So this is the second book in the Imperial Radch series. This review of Ancillary Sword will contain spoilers for the first book – Ancillary Justice. Read on at your own risk.

I won’t lie I went into this book with high expectations. When Justice left off our Ancillary had made good on her 20 years of plotting revenge on the Lord of the Radch by exposing the cold war with her split personalities, and bringing civil war to both herself, and the Empire. She also managed to kill some more Mianaai clones as well, but the civil war is where the real death blow was aimed. After all the Lord of the Radch is the Empire, and no matter who wins this war both are presumably irrevocably weakened. This is the beginning of the end.

Better yet our girl, (and I’m calling every character, AI or human, a woman at this point. It’s just easier than trying to figure everyone out, and keep them straight.) gets her own ship, Mercy of Kalr, so rather than just sitting back, and watching the show she’ll be an active participant! This is really exciting because she doesn’t like any of the Mianaai splits, and so is a total wild card. Except as it turns out none of this happens. Oh it’s implied, but we never get to see it.

The first book was about justice, revenge really, for the loss Justice of Toren, and the death her favorite officer Lt. Awn. This book was about trying to establish a relationship with Lt. Awn’s baby sister. To do so we travel to Atheok Station which revolves around a tea plantation world with no real strategic value or significance. As Lt. Awn tried to address the injustices of Shis’urna in the first book so too Breq tries to address the injustices of Atheok Station, and one of the tea plantations on the planet.

Which is admirable, but not what I was promised! Where is the epic scale of a civil war spreading throughout the Empire? Where are the dueling Mianaai clones? I was expecting an epic Star Wars saga, but instead got an episode of Star Trek. Don’t get me wrong I like Star Trek, but that’s so not what had I been led to believe I was going to get.

Also the I wasn’t as big a fan of the POV hopping in this book as the last. In Justice we see the multiple points of view from Justice of Toren. You mostly see from Breq’s POV, but it often switched to her fellow ancillaries, and even the ship herself as needed. I loved that, and thought it gave a really good insight into Breq, and the AI in general.

In this book we see Breq looking through the eyes of Mercy of Kalr, and her crew. Instead of getting a better sense of the character(s) it just felt like spying to me. It also slowed the story down significantly. I mean one scene was often three separate scenes slowly playing out at the same time. If those scenes were important I’d have rather seen them from the POV of each character rather than just watch it dispassionately from Breq’s eyes. That being said there was still some good character development between Breq, and her crew so the book has that going for it.

Overall, I felt this book didn’t live up to my expectations set at the end of Ancillary Justice. Justice ramped up from a slow start to an epic saga in the making only for Sword to bring it to a screeching halt. I will still be reading the last book, Ancillary Mercy, to see how the story ends, but I’ll do it with scaled back expectations.

My Rating: ☆☆☆

That’s what I just read. I’m currently reading Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey.

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