Notes/First impressions: Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie

I’m back to work from vacation, so reading Ancillary Sword took a lot more time than the previous few books, and it was harder for me to get immersed into it. Other than that, it was pretty much what I expected: a strong sequel to Ancillary Justice but a sequel none the less and that sequelness (sequelity?) didn’t help it much.

  • In this book, the flashback technique wouldn’t have worked as well as in the previous novel in the series, so it wasn’t used as much. That did, however, mean that the storytelling was more linear, less mysterious – but also less ostentatiously there.
  • What this novel did do better than its predecessor was the detailed wordbuilding, working from the notion that single-culture planets were to be avoided and using that to make the environment come alive. Not that Ancillary Justice was any slouch at worldbuilding, but in Sword, it’s more alive. I liked that a lot.
  • The plot was essentially a mystery in which the criminals reveal themselves through their own actions rather than being found out through the protagonist’s brillians, although she does show considerable insight throughout. As plots go, it works, but it’s not that special.
  • Leckie spends a lot of time this time around putting her pieces in place and making sure her readers have the right ideas in their heads for the events in the last 50-odd pages to work. Until the novel heats up in those final 50-odd pages, it works mostly as a fantasy of manners similar to The Goblin Emperor and in many ways they are structured very similarly.
  • For a number of reasons, such as being back at work and having to steal reading time fifteen minutes at a time again, as well as being a little under the weather, I can’t find a lot of actual enthusiasm in me for this novel. That, however, is not Ancillary Sword‘s problem. Used to be I’d re-read a novel again for a second impression but what with time being at such a premium still, that is unlikely to happen right now. I already have my next book lined up, which I will be reading with a view to nominating it for the 2016 Hugo awards…