Tag: Ann Leckie

Review – Ancillary Mercy

Posted October 30, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Mercy by Ann LeckieAncillary Mercy, Ann Leckie

The finale of the trilogy! If you are hoping for a massive showdown between multiple parts of Anaander Mianaai, this isn’t quite it. It remains the story of Breq, and all the characters around her: Seivarden, Tisarwat, Mercy of Kalr, Ekalu… Breq continues to hold Athoek Station, dealing with the resistance to her insistence on changing things and figuring out who supports what faction and how to move all the pieces on the board to protect those she feels responsible for. And of course, the Tyrant wants access to the Athoek System, and wants revenge on Breq, and that arc does play out here.

All in all, I find it both a satisfying and climactic ending — involving a lot of the small (and not so small) pieces coming together into a new whole. Not only that, but there are some amazing explorations of the relationships in the story: Seivarden and Breq, Seivarden and Ekalu, Breq and Mercy of Kalr, Breq and Basnaaid… One of my favourite bits involves a three-way conversation between Seivarden, Breq and Mercy of Kalr, but there’s so many other favourite parts to choose from: Translator Zeiat and Sphene, Breq and Sphene, most scenes with either Zeiat or Sphene… There’s a lot going on emotionally as well, and I don’t feel unsatisfied by the fact that the story is entirely tied up in a bow.

I do think these books have disappointed some people by not being focused on the Tyrant tearing herself apart, the larger story which is often just a backdrop to the interpersonal affairs we see. Others have been disappointed by Breq’s measured perspective on things, that her reactions are not more human, more immediate. She does feel things deeply, but you see that through a sheet of ice sometimes, because she was a Ship and she is also analysing things from that perspective, as someone who has been many people in one (or one person in many — I think it’s clear it goes both ways, though: the ancillaries are both the ship’s mind and control, and also a little bit themselves). The deep attachment to Breq and to the other characters through her is one that has grown on me, rather than being there ready-made; it’s not an instantaneous liking as of meeting a person you want to know. I love the way Breq’s character is developed, and the things she has to learn and the ways she feels, but I think she’s an acquired taste, and perhaps one some people won’t acquire, and that’s fine.

But for me, Leckie’s first trilogy remains not just groundbreaking space opera for being different or doing daring gender things or not just being generic white culture in space or any of the things that people have praised it for — it’s also something with a lot to think about, and a lot to love if that kind of story and those kind of characters are to your taste. There’s stuff here to come back to again and again, and I’m sure I will continue to do so.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Ancillary Sword

Posted October 24, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Sword by Ann LeckieAncillary Sword, Ann Leckie

In the second book of this series, Breq is sent by one version of Anaander Mianaai to secure a system. Before she even arrives at Athoek Station, of course, Breq sets out to change things, defend the system, and serve only her own notions of what is best. Which sounds pretty disloyal, but another version of Anaander Mianaai destroyed the other parts of Breq, and a lieutenant that Justice of Toren loved…

Okay, it’s all very complicated to explain if you haven’t read the first book, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to jump in with Ancillary Sword. It’s in some ways a quieter story than Ancillary Justice: the problems faced are all very local, problems with the crew and with the staff on Station, with only hints of the larger conflict intruding.

In that sense it might feel rather middle bookish, but I think that would be a mistake — seen as a whole, the second book is very much the point of this trilogy. Not epic space battles and daring escapes, but drinking tea, talking to people, changing things with a refusal to accept that things must be right as they are simply because they are that way when you find them. Breq has a journey in these books, but it isn’t to become leader of the whole Radch, to overthrow a whole regime, and this book reflects that: Breq simply wants to make a place for herself, and to take care of those she has become responsible for.

The first time I read it, I definitely didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book; the second time, I think I enjoyed it more. It’s one of those books where I find more to appreciate each time, not in a whirlwind of plot but in people making connections, in people doing what they believe to be right.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – The Raven Tower

Posted February 18, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of The Raven Tower by Ann LeckieThe Raven Tower, Ann Leckie

Received to review from the publisher

I was so excited when I first heard about this book, and extra excited to come back from a weekend away to a pre-publication copy waiting for me, along with a bag, pin and bookmark! So you can imagine that I was super-eager to dive into it — and dive I did.

To get it out of the way straight away: yes, the point of view is second person. But there is a character telling the story, not to the reader but to a character within the story, for a reason. I thought the narration was brilliantly handled, especially at such length. In retrospect, perhaps some of it came across a little exposition-heavy, but I was so fascinated with the ideas that it worked perfectly for me. Yes, the point of view does limit certain things, particularly the understanding of what characters (other than the Strength and Patience of the Hill) are thinking and feeling — but that would be the case with an ordinary first-person narrative as well, if you think about it.

This didn’t turn out the way I expected, really — I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, really, but certain characters drove events with a strength of feeling and stubbornness I wasn’t expecting. I don’t want to say too much, because spoilers at this stage are really unfair, and I do think that you need the whole book’s build-up to give you the slightly stunned daaaamn but also of course that I had at the end of the book!

I think the world-building is beautifully handled without relying on medieval fantasy tropes. I especially enjoyed that one of the main characters (the “you” the story is addressed to, in fact) is trans, in a way that is essential and authentic for the character, without the plot leaning on it. It flavours the interactions and decisions of the character without being a huge issue. I know for some people the question would be “is it necessary” — and to that, the answer is no, but my answer is “perhaps not, but is it necessary for the character to be cisgender?” (Also no.)

Also, it took me far too long to pick up on the fact that this is essentially Hamlet, in many ways.

All in all, for me, the hype was justified. Leckie hasn’t written a typical fantasy novel as some people expected, but she didn’t write typical SF, either. I’m not sure this one will have the impact of the Imperial Radch books, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience, and I’m so glad and grateful I got to read it early.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Provenance

Posted November 25, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Provenance by Ann LeckieProvenance, Ann Leckie

Provenance is not Ancillary Provenance, for sure. The main character is very different from Breq — human, for one thing, and rather less capable, for another. She’s immature and she doesn’t yet know herself, her own capabilities or her own strength. I can sort of understand some reviews who found her a bit of a wet blanket, especially if you know Breq already. But I enjoyed the, well, more human character, in this context. Admittedly, though, Ingray is not my favourite thing about this novel. That would be Garal, by far, and Tic in second place.

But really, what I enjoyed was the societies built up for the story to take place in: the fact that children aren’t gendered, but choose their permanent name and declare their gender as young adults, once they feel comfortable and sure. I enjoyed the handling of that, the care people gave to getting the right pronouns and respecting people’s choice — and the odd moment where someone changes their name as an adult and most people ignore eir preference, which gets called out by the narrative because the people who matter do respect it and just… As a queer person, all this acceptance just goes straight to my heart, and makes me feel like Leckie knows she’s writing for an audience that includes me and the people I know.

For that reason, I feel really weird about the reviews which complain about the “made-up” pronouns (they’re not made-up, they’re in use in the queer community already) or the lesbian relationship and say there’s no “point” in the relationship between Ingray and Teucris, or in Garal being a neman (gender neutral). I think the point is just that these are relationships that happen, identities people already claim, and the way we do things now in the mainstream isn’t the only way to do things. The point is, there are and can be worlds where everyone belongs.

But I don’t think it’s Leckie’s intention to use the story to make a point: the characters’ identities aren’t important to the overall shape of the plot. Perhaps part of the point is just you’re not in Kansas anymore.

The story itself was fun, though not as strong as the Ancillary books. To me this was more about the characters and the world, and I enjoyed it that way. If you want to see the Radch toppling, though, you’ll be disappointed. Though set in the same world, it has little to do with the Radch and is not directly related to the events set off by Breq. Still, Ancillary Sword should probably have clued you into that aspect of Leckie’s interests, focused mostly on the local events and how they affect characters we’ve come to know and love.

I can see why people won’t love this, especially if they’re looking for hard SF.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Ancillary Mercy

Posted August 7, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Mercy by Ann LeckieAncillary Mercy, Ann Leckie

If there’s a place that this trilogy disappoints me a little, it is with this book. There’s plenty of action and character development, and if it were the middle book I’d probably be perfectly happy. But it isn’t; this is the end, and it’s unsatisfying in the sense that we have no idea how things will turn out. It makes sense as a decision, when you see it in the context of the second book in particular — this is really about Breq and her relationships with those around her, and less about the Radch. Breq’s story, and especially that of the Radch, go on before and beyond the books.

But still. I want to know what happens next. Do the Presger rule in favour of Breq’s little republic? What happens to Tisarwat? Does Anaander Mianaii try to take control back — or rather, being Anaander Mianaii, what does she try to get control again?

There are many things I love about this book, but it’s still a little bit in danger of getting only four stars because I just want more. On the other hand, there’s all the delicious dry snark from Breq and Sphene, there’s continued exploration of AIs and personhood, there’s the Translator and her fish sauce and her improbable digestive system… There’s all the heroics and the goodness of Breq, and the desperate moves Station makes to protect its inhabitants —

So in summary, there’s a lot to love, and I want more of it.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Ancillary Sword

Posted July 23, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Sword by Ann LeckieAncillary Sword, Ann Leckie

Ancillary Sword has a smaller scale than Ancillary Justice, which actually continues into book three. It’s not that the wider events are forgotten, but it narrows down to the narrow section of space Breq can protect, her ship, and Athoek Station. As with the first book, I liked this more on the second reading — probably because, yes, I did know what to expect, so I could appreciate it better, but also because on reflection I like that Leckie doesn’t try to tackle the huge sweep of events. Instead, she focuses in on Breq and those around her, and keeps it manageable in plot and for the reader to appreciate.

There was less of Seivarden in this book than I remembered, and actually I think I’d have liked to see more of Seivarden. She’s got learning to do, but all the same, I’ve come to appreciate the character. She’s far from perfect, and she’s not even an anti-hero — she’s just a flawed person. But nonetheless, she grows and develops.

Sometimes Breq is a little too… far-seeing. There are things she suspects in this book that only really become obvious in the third book. In retrospect, I enjoy the way things come together, but the first time it felt like Breq was a little too good. But then, of course, she’s not human. She’s an ancillary, and so she thinks differently. I suppose that’s part of what we’re being shown here too.

So, yes, conclusion continues to be: well worth the reread, and definitely as good as or better than I remembered it.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Ancillary Justice

Posted May 6, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann LeckieAncillary Justice, Ann Leckie

The first time I read this book, I was very conscious of everything people were saying about it in terms of how it treated gender, how it was feminist, etc, etc. I think reading it with those expectations did it a disservice — the way it handles gender is fascinating, and it’s definitely intriguing to get this look at another world where gender isn’t indicated grammatically or socially. But that’s not all this story is. It’s also an adventure, a thriller even; it’s about political machinations when you’re a being who can be divided against yourself in your opinions. It’s about AI and how to control them, about empire and how it functions. There’s a little bit of Rome in it, but there’s a lot of other influences as well.

Which is to say, it’s not about gender. If anything, the most powerful aspect of this book this time round was Breq’s repeated refrain, the closing words: “Choose my aim, take one step and then the next. It had never been anything else.”

When you’re not worried about figuring out who is what gender, and whether that’s clever or subverting your expectations or what, it’s a smoother read, and one in which you can become attached to the characters. Lieutenant Awn — I don’t know what she looks like, nor do I care. I care what she does in the moment, and about her regret for acting or not acting. I care about Breq’s determination to be worthy of the person Awn was. Despite myself, I even care about Seivarden — a snob, a jerk, but also someone who begins to try to be something more.

Going into Ancillary Justice at a remove from the buzz, just because I wanted to reread it and enjoy it, was an excellent decision. I don’t expect my experience of Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy to change in that way, because I already knew what to expect at that point — but I’m quite prepared to find more depth there than I saw the first time.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Ancillary Mercy

Posted December 7, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Mercy by Ann LeckieAncillary Mercy, Ann Leckie

For a while, I wasn’t sure how this book would or could wrap everything up, given the scale of the struggle that we began to see in Ancillary Justice. But I think, in the end, that comes down to the fact that the story isn’t actually about that struggle; this isn’t a never-ending epic struggle, it’s about one person — one fragment of a person, even, slowly becoming a person. It’s about Justice of Toren, and Breq, and then also about the people she interacts with: Seivarden, Ekalu, Ship, Station, Sphene… It’s about people and tangled loyalties and learning.

This makes the small stuff — the tea, the bureaucracy, Tisarwat’s purple eyes, Medic’s attempts to help Seivarden — all-important. So it’s great to see the bit where Seivarden and Breq negotiate mutual comfort; great to see the part where Seivarden struggles to apologise to Ekalu — and then later manages to really apologise to Ekalu. This passage was just so important, because it’s such a sign of how far Seivarden’s come, and such an important thing for people to realise:

“I’ve been thinking about it, and I still don’t understand exactly why what I said hurt you so much. But I don’t need to. It hurt you, and when you told me it hurt you, I should have apologised and stopped saying whatever it was. And maybe spent some time trying to understand. Instead of insisting that you manage your feelings to suit me. And I want to say I’m sorry. And I actually mean it this time.”

Now that’s the way to apologise, sincerely, even when you still don’t understand.

Also, this book does include glimpses of the wider world, beyond the Radch — mentions of the aliens, the presence of another Presger translator, etc. If you’re in this to see Anaander Miaanai go down, then I think you’ll be disappointed with the way the trilogy ends; if you’re in this for Breq and Seivarden and the people gathering around them, then this is an excellent ending.

Well, not an ending, but a good place to stop. You know that Breq will carry on, Seivarden will carry on, and they will still struggle and Anaander will still scheme and Tisarwat has a long way to go. But, “In the end, it’s only ever been one step, and then the next.”

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Ancillary Sword

Posted July 6, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Sword by Ann LeckieAncillary Sword, Ann Leckie

I didn’t like this as much as the first book, I think. It has a completely different focus to the first book, a much more domestic one, and I was expecting something different the whole time. The focus is much more on society in the Radch, rather than the issues of identity that were at work in the first book with Breq’s separation from the Justice of Toren, and the Anaander Mianaai issue. It’s an exploration of more of the world than we saw in the first book, and I really liked that once I got into it.

It’s great seeing Breq back in the world of the Radch, a world that she is perfectly suited for, a world she knows exactly how to operate in. And it’s great seeing her begin to work against Anaander Mianaai and the way the Radch works, in a way that’s still consistent with the values of that world.

I really want Ancillary Mercy now. I’m not sure how I see the whole thing wrapping up, given the fact that this book didn’t really advance the larger plot much. I suppose the books can’t wrap up the civil war Breq’s stirring up, not so simply. We’ve got a small scale going on, especially with this book, and the civil war is going to be on a massive scale.

I guess we’ll have to see!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Ancillary Justice

Posted July 4, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann LeckieAncillary Justice, Ann Leckie

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this one. It swept the awards for the year it came out, and many of my friends adored it, but the first time I tried to read it I bounced off, and my partner wasn’t a huge fan. Fortunately, I did really like it; enough that I’m in a hurry to read Ancillary Sword, at least. I’m not sure if it’s a five star read — that might have to await a reread — but it is definitely a solid four star.

It did take me at least 50 pages to really get into it, maybe even more like 100. There’s a lot to take in, with the language stuff and the world-building. The world-building is awesome, and I’d be a hypocrite to dislike the language stuff here when it’s as consistent as Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, and less obtrusive/central — so that’s not a complaint, just an observation: it took some getting used to. It also took some time for me to get to grips with the characters, particularly the main character. Breq isn’t, in her own eyes, a person, merely a fragment of an AI, so she minimises her own account of her personality, and that makes it awkward.

Still, the details of the world and Breq’s place within it build up, and the plot comes together really well. Unexpectedly, I found myself interested in Seivarden, really really hoping that Lieutenant Awn made it okay, feeling weird about the Lord of the Radch, etc. The feelings part, the emotional engagement, snuck up on me. But it came, and left me hungry for more of the world, to know what happens to Breq, to Seivarden, to the Radch.

Good thing I have Ancillary Sword right here.

Rating: 4/5

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