by Ann Leckie
Review by Katie Carmien
Orbit Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0316246689
Date: 06 October 2015 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
It seems that Breq, last fragment of the troop carrier Justice of Toren, at last has a moment to rest after achieving an uneasy peace on Athoek Station. But revenge against the Lord of the Radch is no easy task, and nothing stays peaceful for long. Someone who shouldn't exist is found in the depths of the station, her best lieutenants are falling apart emotionally, and the inscrutable alien Presger have sent one of their dubiously-human cloned translators. But worst of all, the Lord of the Radch herself is coming to Athoek Station--and this version of her is not at all friendly. Now Breq's on the run and the station is falling apart. The stakes are higher than ever. Can she keep the system in one peace, keep herself and her crew alive, and still get the revenge she's wanted for so long?
Leckie's characters have always been excellent, but Ancillary Mercy is where they really shine. Seivarden's growth comes to its apex, as she is forced to confront her own emotional instability and her selfishness. Tisarwat, who had a lot of potential in Ancillary Sword, really lives up to it here--she's complex and conflicted and very much seventeen, despite everything that's made her older than her years. Sphene and Zeiat are both entertainingly inhuman, funny to read and terrifying in equal measure. And, of course, there is Breq, who at last has something to lose. Watching her realize this fact, and come to terms with it, is heartwarming.
When it comes to plot, Leckie certainly has been ambitious, building up to a massive conclusion--and she does not disappoint. Without spoiling too much, the danger is real, the twists are surprising, and while not all loose ends are wrapped up, what's left at the end feels as if it ought to be left. Not everything is resolved, and that's how it's meant to be.
However, the book does suffer a bit in the last third, because Breq is not present for some of the most exciting parts, and sometimes the action drags. Realistic it may be, but several days of uneasy coexistence and mind-numbing work assignments was not particularly interesting to read. Things thankfully pick up soon, but there are certainly parts that might have been cut. Sphene was also somewhat underused.
All in all, Ancillary Mercy is an excellent and satisfying conclusion to one of the most imaginative and rich series of the genre.