This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.
Sooo… first thing to admit: it took me reading someone else’s review to realise that Justices, Swords and Mercies are all the sorts of ships that Breq is in charge of. How embarrassing that I did not realise that.
Secondly: yes, I love this series, I love Leckie’s work, I love Breq and the world she inhabits. My love is true and remains unshaken.
Further note: I’m just going with ‘she’ to refer to everyone, when I have to. I think there’s one person whose gender is actually confirmed (… maybe…insofar as that ever can be in these books) and it just does violence to my brain to go with he/she when Leckie herself (ahaha) goes with SHE. So nyer.
As with Justice to Sword, Mercy starts almost immediately Sword finishes off. I quite like this, since it means there doesn’t need to be any tedious filling in of blanks. It also means I’d like to see an omnibus edition where you can just read the whole lot, start to finish. It wouldn’t even be that much bigger than a complete edition of The Lord of the Rings. Breq continues to have issues with Anaander Mianaai, ruler of the Radch and therefore of civilisation as the Radch defines it…
… I love the way Leckie continues to play with language and has Breq complain about the vagaries of trying to, for instance, define civilisation as not just being the Radch. After all English is a stupid language in many ways so this whaling on another (imaginary) language amuses me greatly.
… Anyway those issues of course involve potentially being assassinated or friends seriously hurt, which is something Breq just won’t countenance. The book is really focussed on Breq manoeuvring, and being manoeuvred, around that issue. What will she do, or not, to protect those she sees herself as bound to protect. And in this instance, that bind appears to include the entirety of Athoek Station. Which of course brings her into conflict with some of the people on that station as well as elsewhere.
Justice and Sword were interested in issues of, yes, gender representation, but also more broadly and perhaps more profoundly in colonisation and colonial attitudes, in terms of the Big-Ticket Items. That is still present to an extent – there’s a section towards the end about what it means to be a species – but it’s a bit more subdued than previously. Instead the focus is somewhat more intimate, with Seivarden still around and suffering without Breq and working through that. Breq too needs to learn a bit about in/dependence and what that means for her and for those around her. The AI of Athoek Station gets a bit more personality, as do some of the troops on Breq’s Mercy – and, for that matter, the ship’s AI. For me, it all worked rather nicely to go from Breq seriously missing being a ship AI – which she still does, and always will, that’s some massive phantom limb syndrome – and that, plus revenge, is her sole motive, to here where she’s worked through a fair bit of that anger and so on to progress towards being a more fulfilled individual. Which hello, hoped-for human journey, surely?
Don’t let this idea that the story has a more personal focus worry you, though, in case that’s something that worries me (really though why even?). There are still battles, still political intrigues, still last-ditch efforts and desperate ploys and all of the wonderful space opera-y goodness that Leckie has led me to expect. All of that plus a new Translator from the Presger (uh, slight spoiler there I guess but seriously if you’ve read Sword how were you not expecting that?) and this one is funny. Oh the things you can do with fish sauce.
And to those who complain about the tea drinking: really? You don’t think it gets lame hearing people drinking coffee/kafe/ whatever pseudo-equivalent your author has come up with? Or going out and getting wasted on the local equivalent of vodka? Please. It’s called rich world-building and it’s a wonderfully idiosyncratic aspect of the Radch. Like the gloves.
Read the whole series. Just… go and do it. Seriously.
You can get Ancillary Mercy from Fishpond.