Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – Advance Review [Bane of Kings]

Ancillary Justice

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie’s debut science fiction novel published by Orbit Books. Look out for this book on October 1.

“Every so often, you get surprised by a book. Something that drew you in with its awesome cover and then blows you away – and I’m glad to say that Ancillary Justice was very much this book. Surprising, original, and a delight to read. Ancillary Justice is very much a book that you should look out for come its release. Prepare to be not just surprised, but amazed.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. 

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. 

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

I read a lot more fantasy and comics nowadays than I do science fiction, so any sci-fi novel that comes my way I’ll be interested in reading purely because this allows me to get back into the genre. A few years ago it would have been reversed though – Practically all my reading was sci-fi, even if it came in the form of tie-in fiction published by Black Library. I still do read the odd Black Library book every now and again, but something fresh, original and entertaining I’m always on the look out for, and Ancillary Justice manages to hit that spot perfectly, and after a bit of a gamble, being swayed by its amazing cover-art and Scalzi-praise – as well as a few positive reviews on twitter and Goodreads, I leapt right in, not expecting to be blown away. 

Ancillary JusticeI know I’ve been doing a lot of positive reviews lately, and I’m going to have to say here and now that Ancillary Justice is another positive review. I’m one of those people who will find something to enjoy about most things, and I very rarely come across a book that I haven’t liked. Dan Abnett’s Pariah, Descent of Angels by Mitchell Scanlon, The Lost Symbol and Inferno by Dan Brown have all fallen into this category – but Ancillary Justice is certainly a book that does not. I loved pretty much every second of it – narrated in first person by Breq, a strong and rootable female lead character, Ann Leckie weaves a compelling story with an imaginative world building and several fast paced action sequences that are really worth your time.

The book introduces us to Breq, the lead character – who years ago, she was effectively the Justice of Toren, a Radchaai starship. She’s controlled the Justice of Toren for a thousand years, overseeing a vast army of ancillary bodies – operating as one of the more important figures in the ever-expansive Radch empire. Now though, she lacks the assets that she once had available, reduced to ‘merely’ one body – and that’s not the worst thing. She’s on the run, carrying information vital to the Empire, and is alone, not knowing what plans they have in mind for her. As mentioned earlier, she’s a strong character – confident and powerful enough to be the only first-person narrator in the book, more than making up for the fact that we don’t get the viewpoint of anybody else – even if this would have helped add further depth to Leckie’s world, which still manages to pretty well crafted.

The book itself, with just the concept – has managed to be one of the most original and fun books I’ve read this year. Ancillary Justice manages to more than live up to the awesome cover and the praise that it’s gaining – whilst it may not have been a huge hit so far I can certainly see it gaining a lot of followers. It’s clever, inventive and builds up to a pretty awesome reveal. The plot is clever and complex, with strong prose that doesn’t really feel like a début author at the helm of this. Leckie’s worldbuilding is masterful and adopts a slightly different, simple twist on what most books use – the main gender featured here is female. Characters referred to as being female are male, and taking this one step further, Leckie’s main character, Breq – is implied to be female through her body – and thus, naturally the audience assumes that she is a woman, but her consciousness lacks a gender altogether, allowing for an interesting angle where Breq finds herself having difficulty assigning the gender of a person who doesn’t hail from the Radch Empire.

In conclusion then, Ancillary Justice is a pretty awesome read. It’s something that you should give a try when it hits shelves next month. It’s original, refreshing, imaginative and kickass. Highly Recommended, this could well end up being one of my Top 25 books of 2013.

VERDICT: 4.5/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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