After really loving the first book on the Imperial Radch series, Ancillary Justice, and seeing that I was not the only one (is there any price Leckie didn’t win?) it was a no brainer to continue with the series. It was hard to though, because as it turns out, the changed the narrator (First book was read by Celeste Ciulla and this one is Adjoa Andoh) and so several of the pronunciations, names, etc changed and for the first quarter of the book it was hard to fully engage. Once I was past this, the story was great. Leckie has a gift in building and sharing this new different cultural groups and the Radch universe can be very dark and very colorful at the same time.
While the first book was intended to be obviously the introduction to the world and developed the revenge sentiment in Breq, this book went deeper into her as character, and that was great. I really appreciated the character growth and development not only for Breq, but for Seivarden and all the rest of the team in Mercy of Kalr.
Breq is still the main voice in the story, but as she herself points out, she is missing her extra ancillaries, and while she still has the connection to Ship, there is a void on how she can “see” or perceive multiple events, compared to what she was in her past with Lieutenant Awn. Her getting accustomed to her new “unique” self was a very different part of the story, but one I really did enjoy, actually feeling her confusion and somewhat sadness to “just be one”.
At first I disliked Lieutenant Tisarwat but by the end of it I was quite fond of her and I am hoping to see her again in Ancillary Mercy. While in this book the focus is settled in character development I feel there is still room for surprise from all the main characters.
The book is set in Athoek Station, far away from the lord of the Radch, but certainly not far from political intrigue. In case you haven’t noticed, the Radch are very keen to maintaining or improving their social status and what is “proper” might change according to what is convenient. Not for Breq; in my own opinion she sticks to the parameters of being a Radchaai even better than any other character even if she despises a big deal of this façade based behaviour.
As much as I liked the book and even if I wasn’t expecting the final twist (no spoilers, don’t worry) there was something missing and I can’t help but to think that this feeling comes from the struggle to engage with the story at the beginning, due to the change of narrator. While both narrators did a terrific job, I am used to a certain continuity of voices by now when I am listening to a series.
This does not dissuade me from waiting anxiously for the next book. I still loved the whole world that Leckie has constructed for us, and contrary to some reviews I saw, I didn’t feel like the political critique was heavy or obscured the rest of the story; on the contrary I think that it is one of the sides I enjoy the most of the series. Let’s hope the trilogy closes with all the spirit and strength present in AJ.