Ancillary Sword was an intense book, very riveting. I wouldn’t read this book without reading Ancillary Justice first; Ann Leckie does not coddle you here at all. You are dropped straight into the middle of the action, and the story takes off quickly, with no pause to refresh anyone who might have forgotten key details of the grand universe that she’s built. That said, I read Justice more than a year before I picked up Sword and I was fine. And if you can immerse yourself and hang on, you are in for a powerful adventure. Leckie’s world is rich with culture and philosophy, and the exploits of a former spaceship-turned-“human” make for a gripping read. There are a wide array of characters, from the crew of the main character’s ship to a horticulturalist, the residents of a tea plantation, and a military Captain. The society that she has built is a very rich one, and the plot is fast-paced and intense. I blew through the book pretty quickly, as I disliked putting it down. The climax was quite satisfying, as was the resolution. I’m definitely looking forward to the third book.
I’d recommend this book and its prequel to anyone who enjoys epic science fiction. It definitely lives up to the tag “space opera,” with the grand acts that sweep through the pages filling up the story across planets, ships, and a space station. It is a pretty complex story, so this is not a book to pick up if you just want a leisurely read, but if you enjoy taking your mind on all sorts of twists and turns, this is a book for you. One of the more unique details that is woven through the story is that the leader of the government that spans most of human space is a multi-bodied entity, and an interesting problem arising from this is actually a key driver of the story here. Exploring the nature of multi-bodied entities in general is threaded throughout the work, as the main character was formerly multi-bodied and she reflects back on it from time to time, especially when she’s interacting with other such characters. Fascinating details like those coat the pages of the book, so anyone picking it up will be well rewarded with brain-expanding riches.
In summary, this book was a feast. I really feel like I experienced Leckie’s world, that I was following through the drama of Breq’s life. If you’re looking for an absorbing book that will entertain as well as take you through intricate philosophical dilemmas, this is one for you.