I don't think I need to greatly introduce the American author Ann Leckie here – her debut novel Ancillary Justice won most of the major awards on the scene, and introduced her as a major new voice in the field. Ancillary Mercy is the final book in the trilogy (the middle one is called Ancillary Sword), and shares both the title structure (and there's some clever allusions in these) and the cover artwork (all three are parts of the same painting. Clever, again).
Ancillary Mercy picks up where Ancillary Sword left off – Breq is still on Athoek Station, barely over the events at the end of the previous book, and the next round of 'fun' is alrady kicking off. It starts off with the discovery of an Ancillary from a pre-Radchaai ship on the station, something which is as impossible as it is alarming. It gets better with the arrival of another Presger translator, Zeiat (after convincing her that she cannot be Dlique as Dlique is dead), and tops off with the expected coming of Anaander Mianai, the lord of the Radch empire, who has split into factions and is at war with herself.
And if this is not enough major pieces on the board for some serious storytelling (and some action) then we can add Breq's rather unconventional take on ships and stations and their AI (given that she is/was a ship) to throw curve balls.
Let's just say there's much more going on here than the drinking of tea, or the Raadchai obsession with wearing gloves.
There is some re-telling of the past. I'm not sure what this aims at – maybe to remind the reader? I don't think for a second that this is intended to make the book a jumping-on point for those who have not read the previous two books, this would not make sense in the first place, and there is not enough information dumping here, either. Just read the trilogy, folks, it's good stuff!
Breq, for most of the story, is still playing ship. Or, rather, ship is still letting Breq play ship, with its shifting, multi-perspective view on events, crew, and other streams of information. In the end Breq is, or would like to be, and is emphatically not – missing her shipness and her other bodies is her obsession, a major absence, and her counterpoint to Lieutenant Seivarden's drug problem.
A high point in the book is Presger translator Zeiat, who originally thought she was Dlique, but Dlique is of course dead... so she has, obviously, have to be someone else. I was sad to see Dlique leave the stage so quickly in the earlier book, so I was double glad to have another alien (and, despite her looking human, she definitely is not!) like her back. Zeiat is refreshing, somewhere between naïve and dadaist surreality in her inhumanity, her obsessions, and her interactions with the human world. Fascinating, and a comic relief in a world without too much fun right now.
I'm not sure I want to give you much more, I feel that all I do is spoil the book for you. Let's just say that this has a good amount more drive and development than the middle book in the trilogy (so far so standard), and also that I entirely stopped even thinking of the gender of most of the protagonists (Radch language only has pronouns in one gender, rendered here in female). Yes, there are hints, and hidden pieces of information when information is provided in other languages, for example, but it's not relevant, and I'm also fairly sure that in my head some people are a different gender compared to what Ann had them down as. And I don't want to spoil my fun if I can.
Overall a fitting and great finale to the trilogy. All three books are well worth reading if you can stand the hype surrounding them. And me, I'm wondering where Ann will go from here – but that's her challenge; me, I will give whatever comes next a go, too.
Title: Ancillary Mercy
Author: Ann Leckie
Series: Imperial Radch
Series Number: 3
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher URL: http://www.orbitbooks.net
Publication Date: 2015
Review Date: 160322
Price: UKP 8.99
Topic: Space Opera