Ahoy there mateys! I have been a fan of Ann Leckie ever since I read her debut novel. And what a doozy that one was. It still be one of me all-time favourites ever. In fact, I featured and gushed about this author in me Broadside No. 16 due to provenance coming out. And now I finally read her newest book. Hooray!!
I must start by saying that I loved it. The characters, writing, plot, and world are so well done. While the story about Ingray was fabulous and plot-twisty and stellar and just plain fun, what I really took from the book was not the story at all but the juxtaposition between the society of the Hwaeans in this book and the Radchaai in her imperial radch trilogy. This was not me intention but, well, this aspect provided me myriad entertainments.
Ye see this novel is technically a standalone that is set in the same world as the trilogy. I absolutely love what I would consider companion books that exist in a world but showcase other aspects and cultures of said world – like in me reviews of the Culture books or the Craftworld books. So this was a mind-puzzle gift that I found fascinating. If ye haven’t read the first book in the trilogy, ancillary justice, then the next section will likely not make sense to ye. And I suggest ye read that novel before reading this one because of said paragraphs below. So while there are no plot spoilers ahead, I will be doing some mild comparisons and random thoughts so if ye keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . .
- I adored that the Radchaai were the protagonists of the trilogy and of course considered themselves the highest-cultured beings of the universe. And in this book we showcase the Hwaean culture who believes they are superior. Both cultures spend time pointing out how certain habits of other societies proved they were uncouth. That being said, both cultures also like to see themselves as being open-minded, which I found to be hysterical.
- For example there is a Radchaai diplomat in this novel. Though a very minor character, the diplomat was used perfectly. The author highlights the hypocrisy of the Radchaai in terms of the person appointed for the diplomatic job and also in the diplomat’s attitude towards her job. Yet in certain situations the diplomat takes her tasks extremely seriously and is an important component to how the plot progresses and is resolved. It was awesome!
- We get to see multiple cultures in all the books. Geck, Radchaai, Rrrrr, Omken, and others. So very different and complex and fun. In particular the use (or non-use) of terms of gender vary by culture and language and the complexities rock! The mistakes are sometimes very funny and yet somehow also insightful into how gender is dealt with in this day and age.
- I also adore the different types of justice systems portrayed and the intricacies in how twisted interplanetary law can be. In Tyr Siilas there is a fine based system. Hwae seems slightly more like the British judicial system. Also how all of the cultures deal with the treaty with the Presger is portrayed so well in all of the novels. Citizenship was never such an interesting conundrum.
- I loved how the Radchaai have their memorial pins and the Hwae have their vestiges. I have to admit that I am more partial to a memorial pin. However the use of the vestiges in this book were central to the story and a hoot besides. I kinda want the Radchaai pins and the tourist vestiges.
- Speaking of tourism, Ann Leckie is awesome about writing about tourist places that are normal for the regular population but that I would totally visit. From bridges in the trilogy to Eswae Parkland in this book, I am fascinated and wish I could visit. I would sail the stars just to see the ruin glass hills. If only . . .
Me writing skills are not good enough to get into more particulars and I certainly don’t want to give away spoilers. But this novel has been lingering in me head and heart and thoughts. I suggest if ye haven’t read Ann Leckie’s work then ye should witness for yerself the magic of her writing.
The author’s website has this to say about the novel:
Following her record-breaking debut trilogy, Ann Leckie, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards, returns with an enthralling new novel of power, theft, privilege and birthright.
A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.
Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.
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