Leckie, Ann: (02) Ancillary Sword

I liked Ancillary Justice very much. I . . . don’t actually know what I think about its sequel, Ancillary Sword.

For me, Sword is such a middle book that I can’t fully assess it until I know the shape of the whole series. It’s doing fascinating and important things in terms of character growth and worldbuilding (which, because the Imperial Radch is an empire built on conquest and economic exploitation, involves a lot of examination of systems of oppression). It has some great bits like a character who reminded me of Delirium in a particularly dangerous state, and four-fifths of a limerick that I was sad to learn doesn’t have a last line. But it’s also a trip away from the main action set up in the last book that, by the end—as one character explicitly says—has added at least one entirely new complication and not resolved any old ones. And so I feel my assessment is on hold, waiting to see if the character growth and worldbuilding pays off sufficiently to justify the somewhat slower pace and the change of focus.

(I’m also a little uneasy about the combination of forced labor on plantations and this being a fantasy of Breq’s political agency. But people who I trust to be more clued-in on things like this than me, such as N.K. Jemisin, don’t seem to have had a problem with that, and I can see ways in which the book attempts to address the problems with that setup. For me it’s more a balance/tone thing than anything, and I’m feeling a little raw on these topics right now, so I’m not sure how far I trust my uneasiness.)

Anyway. Pretty much every other review I’ve seen seems to like this book as much or more than the first, so chalk me up as a tired outlier who is, nevertheless, very much looking forward to the next book.


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  1. A possible difference is that I read it not as a middle book of a trilogy or whatever, but as a middle book of a Bujold-like twenty book series.

  2. Yeah, I agree, it’s definitely a very middle book. And … if I hadn’t known it was a trilogy, I too might have read it as the start of an ongoing series of things, because the pacing of it felt more like that; ‘now One Esk is going to travel from planet to planet interacting with different problems there!’ But the traveling from planet to planet were always my least favorite Vorkosigan books.

    Maybe it’s just that the problems that One Esk faces here feel pretty external to One Esk’s own issues, while all the problems from the last book were very directly related to her. Next book’s angry warship beyond the gate is a much more directly Esk-related problem though, so I’m excited to see how that resolves.

  3. Right, yes, about the externality, which also ties into the concerns I had and also, I think, those raised by the review from lightgetsin that I linked you to elsewhere.

  4. Yep. Yeah, I pretty much agree with all of that.

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