Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

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To say that Ann Leckie’s debut novel, Ancillary Justice (REVIEW), was last year’s most surprising critical darling wouldn’t be far from the truth, but anyone with knowledge of Leckie’s previous short fiction should not have been shocked to see the bold space opera make so many waves. Ancillary Justice recently won the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle, and found nominations for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, the 2013 Nebula Award and the 2013 BSFA Award for Best Novel. It is expected by many (myself included) to make the Hugo list for Best Novel when nominations are tallied next month.

Ancillary Sword does not have the luxury of obscurity, as Leckie was quick to point out when I reached out to her to discuss the sequel. “I wrote Ancillary Justice in a sort of isolation — only my friends knew I was working on it,” she said. “Some of them had opinions on the work, but mostly it was just me, writing and thinking about it. Ancillary Sword, though — now Ancillary Justice is out, I’ve been seeing reactions to it, and speculations about Ancillary Sword, and it’s kind of odd, to see people tweet about where they hope or assume the book or its characters might go.”

Fans have a lot to look forward to, and the back cover blurb for Ancillary Sword gives a good idea of what they’re in for.

The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go — to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn’s sister works in Horticulture.

Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized — or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station’s AI is unhappy with the situation, and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what’s going on. With no guarantees that interest is benevolent.

“When I wrote Ancillary Justice,” Leckie explained, “I knew that the story wanted to be a trilogy — it’s funny, isn’t it, how you just think of things in familiar forms, as though there’s some universal reason a story should be a hundred thousand words long, or else three chunks of a hundred thousand each, and not some other length or structure. It just goes to show how strong some expectations are.

“Anyway. I felt from the start that the story wanted to be a trilogy, but I also had no way of knowing if I could even sell one book, let alone three. So I decided to write Ancillary Justice as though there would only be the one book–but I also tried to leave some options open in case I would actually get to continue.”

Breq is facing somewhat different problems, now she’s gotten what there is to get of her revenge and is still alive to face new problems.

The critical success of Ancillary Justice opened many doors for Leckie and her trilogy. Breq’s journey through the the first novel left readers with an empire on the verge of civil war and utter collapse, and Ancillary Sword promises to deliver questions to some of the trilogy’s most pressing questions, though not in exactly the same way that Ancillary Justice first asked them.

“Of necessity, the settings of Ancillary Sword aren’t quite so far-flung as Ancillary Justice,” she explained “[and it] isn’t exactly the same sort of book as Ancillary Justice. Breq is facing somewhat different problems, now she’s gotten what there is to get of her revenge and is still alive to face new problems. Regardless, I do hope that readers enjoy it.”