Imperial Radch #3: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit Books)

For a moment, things seem to be under control for the soldier known as Breq. Then a search of Atheok Station’s slums turns up someone who shouldn’t exist – someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that’s been hiding beyond the empire’s reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq’s enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai – ruler of an empire at war with itself.

Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren’t good, but that’s never stopped her before.

[Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Goodreads ]

Ancillary Justice came out of nowhere when it first was released and took me by surprise as to just how incredibly good it was. It was so good in fact, that it won the Hugo, Nebula AND the Arthur C. Clarke awards, and it’s great to see so far that the trilogy has kept up its consistent pace, emerging as one of the best science fiction trilogies that I’ve read, and that is no small level of accomplishment, because this is a fantastic book. I was kind of worried that the third book wouldn’t end the trilogy on a high note, but thankfully, it has more than matched expectations and is likely going to be one of the best novels of 2015, much like Ancillary Justice was one of the best of 2013, and Ancillary Sword, was one of the best of 2014.

Breq, the main protagonist of the series, has come a long way since Ancillary Justice, having used to belong to a collective group of ancillaries linked up with the AI on the Justice of Toren. However, she has since found herself alone, without the support of the starship following its destruction, but has singled in one target for revenge, the quite possibly insane Anaander Miaani, who just so happens to be the Lord of the Radch, and is heavily armed. The odds are not in her favour, but with running not being an option for everyone at Athoek, she’s going to have to take on Mianni anyway. And so what follows is an excellent read that’s not only complex, ,but also incredibly entertaining, fun and engaging. Fans of the previous two novels will enjoy Ancillary Mercy, as it delivers on all fronts and provides a satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy, with plenty of surprises in store.

Breq herself is still dealing with problems from the aftermath of Ancillary Sword at the start of the book and it’s interesting to see her continued tale of revenge against the Lord of the Radchaai Empire. It’s action packed, entertaining and yet at the same time, balances the quieter moments with the more dramatic ones very well, adopting a smooth, confident pace that keeps heading towards the final act. This book achieves what few others can manage, weaving an ending that not only could see as an end point in the Trilogy, but also as a starting point for a whole new series of adventures in the Imperial Radch world. There’s loads of different opportunities for prequels and other side stories, but at the same time, if Leckie were not to write them,  the trilogy stands on its own perfectly well.

Ancillary Mercy is a book that combines the flashbacks and the present narrative so well, with some fantastic structure. Few books make you care as much about the flashbacks and the present day storyline as much as this one does, and with the addition of two new characters thrown into the mix as well, things remain as strong and consistent as ever. They’re both diverse and intriguing new characters that are well-realised, and make excellent additions to the book.

The character driven book brings Breq’s story to an excellent conclusion. Secondary characters such as Seivarden also get some good, emotionally satisfying endings as well, and there’s an incredibly few list of things that this trilogy got wrong. But that said, I recgonise that not everyone is going to like it, however, chances are, if you’ve lasted to the final book in the Trilogy then you will, nine times out of ten, be satisfied by this superb ending.

Highly Recommended. And now I feel a compelling urge to go back and re-read the trilogy again from the beginning, because it’s just so damn good. I can’t wait to see what Leckie comes up with next.

VERDICT: 9.5/10

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