Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch Book 2)
Ann Leckie, 2014

Premise: Sequel to Ancillary Justice. If you haven’t read Ancillary Justice yet… I don’t know what to do with you. Breq’s ploys in the first book have allowed her a certain amount of autonomy. Now she just wants to keep herself and her crew alive long enough to fulfill a debt.

I bought this book months ago and only got around to reading it now, just before the release of the third book.

I am an idiot for waiting.

Although, on the other hand, having some distance from the first novel allowed me to fall in love with the conventions of the series all over again. I love Breq’s perspective. She has lived a long time, she is not human, not really, and sees things in a subtly different way from the people around her. I love the way she questions history and draws connections that are uncomfortable or unthinkable for others.

And I still love the pronoun thing.

[In case anyone’s reading this who hasn’t read the first: because of the language/culture Breq is from, all people are “she”. All siblings are ‘sisters’.]

Gimmicky or not, it pushes my brain into this androgynous space where two somewhat-contradictory things seem simultaneously true:
Physical gender is completely immaterial to why or how a character does any action, including sexual or physical violence.
The characters seem female until proven otherwise, which gives the whole thing a all-female society feeling.

Both of these feelings mean that the character’s action can only ever reflect on them as individuals or occasionally on their culture. It makes me really think more about all the assumptions that are usually built into reading about character interaction. Character A threatens Character B. If A is male and B is female, that is a different scene, without any different language, than the other way around, because of centuries of cultural expectation. Or Character A expresses interest and curiosity about Character B. Whether the pair is male/female, female/male, male/male or female/female means a lot about what assumptions the reader is likely to make.

All of those crutches, assumptions and tropes are stripped away by this writing, and it’s delightful.

The plot of Ancillary Sword suffers a little from ‘second-book’ syndrome, in that not a lot happens on a large scale. However, I still thought it was a great story, and I want to know what comes next.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book


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