“Ancillary Mercy” by Ann Leckie is the third novel in a trilogy called the “Imperial Radch”. This book came out in October 2015, a few months after I reviewed the first two novels in the series.
Like the second book, “Ancillary Mercy” picks up almost immediately after its predecessor ends. Breq and her crew are still at Athoek Station. With everyone still reeling from the events in “Ancillary Sword”, things become even more complicated when they discover someone who appears to be the ancillary from a ship that has been missing for a thousand years and find themselves having to look after the very strange and very literal Translator Zeiat who has been sent by the Presger alien race for reasons unclear. Then of course is the extremely inconvenient fact that the ruler of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, is at war with herself and Breq is somehow right in the middle of it.
I liked this book better than the second, but not as much as the first. Leckie brings a lot more action back into the story, and there are some really interesting relationships that start to build between Breq and other AIs. Translator is an absolute riot and is a fantastic humorous counterweight to the otherwise heavy tone of the book.
I think, like in many trilogies, the first book was the best. Ann Leckie was clearly on a tight publishing schedule and releasing three books in three quick years doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing. Also, one of the things that I really enjoyed about the first book was how many different worlds Breq visited. The second and third books are situated in the same system, and really for the most part on Athoek Station. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to explore more worlds and cultures and peoples.
Then, without giving too much away, there’s a point in the book where the focus of the plot shifts considerably. Although I can understand that the entire series has led up to that moment, it does make the events of the majority of “Ancillary Mercy” feel a bit pointless. Perhaps that was the point.
While “Ancillary Mercy” is probably not the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke winner that “Ancillary Justice” was, it is still a good read and a satisfying conclusion to a groundbreaking trilogy.