I loved Ancillary Justice, and was curious to see where Leckie would take the series. While there was some exploration and hinting at larger issues that would be relevant to broader plot, for the most part, this novel felt very much like a smaller story and a large shift in perspective. After the first one set up a huge struggle that could define the future of the Empire, this felt more like an intimate murder mystery type of story, very focused on this one small planet and its people.
At the end of the previous novel, Breq and one version of Anaander Mianaai have come to a truce of sorts. Breq has been given command of a ship, has chosen some crew for herself and been assigned others, and is about to embark on her first mission for the Lord of the Radch. This mission will bring her to the home planet of the officer who had meant so much to her in her previous life.
There are a few things going on, some of which seem to be more about setting up for the conclusion of the trilogy with the mysterious cargos and gate to an unused territory, but the majority of the plot deals with the on planet politics. This novel continues the themes of the previous novel, showing the tension between the old ruling classes and the workers, and the various fractions that are fighting to keep the status quo as others attempt to shift to a meritocracy.
Overall, it was an absolutely pleasant and interesting story about life in the Empire; it also showed Breq in command and how she dealt with her new leadership position. However, as enjoyable as it was, it also felt odd after the previous novel since it felt like such a reduced scale. It felt more like a novel that would be part of a long running series with over a dozen novels rather than the middle part of a trilogy. Then again, in other ways it was a traditional middle novel since it very much seemed to be about setting up the heroes for the next novel while dropping a few small pieces of hint without giving too much away. It’s been a bit of time since I read this one but I’ve been holding off on reading the conclusion to make sure I didn’t confuse the two novels when it came time for reviews so at least now I can finally see how it ends!