by Ann Leckie
Ancillary Sword is the second novel in a trilogy. To see a *SPOILER* free review of Ancillary Justice, the first book, go here.
Anaander Mianaai, the Lord of the Radch interstellar Empire, is at war with herself. Anaander Mianaai has a single mind spread over many bodies living throughout the Radch, ruling as one. Secretly though, she is at war with herself, with factions of her mind operating at cross purposes, fighting for and against military expansion. In Ancillary Justice, Breq, the last surviving slave body Ancillary of the Troop Carrier ship Justice of Torren, committed an act of revenge against Anaander Mianaai which caused the secret conflict within the Lord of the Radch to become an open civil war. In Ancillary Sword, Breq throws her lot in with the faction of Anaander working for peace and is given a ship, The Mercy of Kalr, and instructions to defend the backwater Athoek system. Breq and her crew find themselves in a troubled society split by inequality and injustice which they must find a way to protect.
Ancillary Sword is a really good novel, maybe even better than Ancillary Justice. And why I think so comes down to this: "When something [horrible that you caused] happens, you have two choices... You can admit error and resolve never to repeat it, or you can refuse to admit the error and throw every effort behind insisting you were right to do what you did, and would gladly do it again." This idea is at the heart of Ancillary Sword and is the crux of something I spend a lot of time thinking about. As someone with a ton of privilege, contending with culpability in systemic injustice and deciding where I stand in relation to this guilt has been a big part of growing up for me. And I can see other people in positions of power contending with this same culpability and reacting to it in different ways constantly. It is a very important thing to explore in fiction. Ancillary Sword creates a world that directly explores how power structures help and fail individuals, unite and divide societies and how people rationalize their role within power structures to fight or deny injustice. It is a very slow moving but intensely intimate examination of personal responsibility in the context of social power dynamics which is a surprisingly gripping and moving read. What Ancillary Sword maybe lacks in obvious excitement or narrative focus it more than makes up for in the complexity and emotional stakes of its thematic core. It is a fantastic book.
I love this book and think pretty much everyone should read it. That said, to really appreciate this novel, I think you pretty much have to read Ancillary Justice first. So I would recommend you go out and read Ancillary Justice and then proceed to read Ancillary Sword. They are tremendous.