Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch #2)

Breq is a soldier who used to be a warship. Once a weapon of conquest controlling thousands of minds, now she has only a single body and serves the emperor.

With a new ship and a troublesome crew, Breq is ordered to go to the only place in the galaxy she would agree to go: to Athoek Station to protect the family of a lieutenant she once knew - a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Adjoa Andoh (Narrator)
YEAR: 2014
LENGTH: 400 pages (11 hours 42 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Science Fiction

Queer Rep Summary: N/A - The protagonist uses "she" for everyone, so anything I could say would be guessing.

ANCILLARY SWORD follows Breq to the station where the sister of the lieutenant she murdered lives. The lieutenant served her when she was a ship, but now Breq has only one body. Knowing that the lieutenant's sister would not welcome her, she nevertheless makes an offer intended to provide material support and to assuage whatever level of guilt she quite understandably feels, even after all this time. As a sequel, this means that the stated point of the book (at the outset) is to wrap up this obligation which was left hanging from ANCILLARY JUSTICE. Once Breq arrives on the station, a new storyline unfolds relating to abuse of some of the colonized people. She pursues and obtains a small but very important piece of justice. Along the way the narrative spends a lot of time showing the way that the Radch Empire's ideals of fairness and justice can still allow for quite a bit of unfairness and injustice when people play fast and loose with precisely whom is a real citizen, and therefore whom is due basic protections and rights. 

I love the way this series approaches identity, holding space for individuality and autonomy even though Breq is the last body of a collective identity which cycled through hundreds or thousands of bodies over her long existence. It seems as though this is part of why she cares about individual's rights to their own bodies so much, she had a duty of care and a sense of well-being tied up in her many bodies when she had them. In her strange existence as the last of her own ancillaries she is turning that care outward even more than when she just had charge of her ancillaries and crew.

Very importantly for the middle book of a trilogy, this has a complete storyline that could stand alone and be very comprehensible to someone who hadn't read the first book. Enough is explained about how the ancillaries work that even though Breq's backstory was told in the ANCILLARY JUSTICE, there's enough here for ANICLLARY SWORD to make sense without those specifics. Because of the way key details are explained towards the end of the book, to a new reader this could easily feel like the solution to a mystery, just as it does to most of the people around Breq. 

The worldbuilding once again is complex and robust, but it's focused on people in a way that feels very accessible. I prefer soft sci-fi, and while I don't know if this technically counts, I do know that I've made it through two books so far without being forced to learn the technobabble for how the space travel gates work, so I'm happy with it.

I have some guesses as to what the third book could focus on, the only thing I know for sure is that breck leaves the station in the end, something I don't consider to really be a spoiler as her one constant is travel. Wherever she goes now and what happens because of the people she got to know in ancillary sword the third book is likely to deal with the Emperor's crisis of identity that is brewing in the background (and occasionally the foreground) of this book

I want to know how the Emperor's identity crisis will resolve (or not), really I want to know what Breq will do next. 

Graphic/Explicit CW for classism, bullying, xenophobia, slavery, trafficking, colonization, blood, murder, death

Moderate CW for grief, misgendering, child abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, domestic abuse, violence, gun violence, injury detail, medical content, war

Minor CW for sexism, sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape

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