At last, the wait is over - on to Ancillary Mercy.
Rather than explain who everyone is and where we're at when we come to the start of this book, I refer readers back to my previous reviews of Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword or, better still, to the books themselves. Having just re-read both those in preparation for my copy of Ancillary Mercy turning up, I found there were aspects of those previous books that were new to me this time around, which I think is the mark of an overall plot that hasn't just been thrown together.
Like Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy picks up pretty much where its predecessor ended, so Breq and her ship are still in Athoek space and wondering when trouble in the form of Anaander Mianaai is going to turn up. Their previous living quarters on the Athoek station had been rendered uninhabitable by the events of the previous book, which have also prompted a lot of manoeuvering by the non-military folks on the station and especially one of the religious leaders who has suddenly started expressing an interest in the rebuilding and what happens next.
Meanwhile Breq is going through something of an identity crisis as she tries to figure out how she should interact with both her new ship and its crew. Because everyone on 'Mercy of Kalr' is connected and she also has implants dating from when she was an ancillary, Breq is able to gain much more information from the ship about what is going on, but begins to wonder if this is a good idea or if she's using it as something of a crutch because she misses her previous connection to 'Justice of Toren'. She has also sparked an idea in the AI mind of 'Mercy of Kalr' about self-determination, so the concepts of identity and what it is to be sentient roll through this book on both Breq's part and as a wider theme.
I confess, I flicked to the back of Ancillary Mercy to check if my favourite character (Seivarden, in case you were wondering) survives and I'm glad to say this is the case - though not with any degree of comfort, as she is struggling with her past addictions and also is learning how not to be a self-centred arse. I think that's why I like Seivarden so much, because of the progress you see being made from the person we first meet half-dead in the snow on Nilt to who she is at the end of this book. Not perfect, by any sense of the word, but trying to be better and not always succeeding.
Anyway, as suspected, a version of Anaander Mianaai does turn up at Athoek and begins to cause all sorts of problems for everyone, particularly as she is quite happy to kill whoever stands in her way. She is also completely convinced that someone is controlling Breq and also the AI on Athoek Station when it defies her orders, unable to see that there is more going on here. Added to the mix is another of the Presger's human(ish) Translators and an equally unwelcome guest in the form of an ancillary linked to a ship from the very early days of the Radch - in Ancillary Justice we hear about how Anaander had put significant limits on what ships could do, making them ultimately loyal to her, and this is one of the ships from before this time.
In the end, Ancillary Mercy does wrap up most of the storylines going in the trilogy but still leaves others hanging. Breq has suggested to the Presger, via their Translator, that the AI minds the Radch use for their ships and space stations are equally sentient when compared to humans and the Translator is last seen heading off to start the ball rolling for this to be discussed. Breq, her ship and the others around her have set up a provisional government and only time will tell what response it will receive from the rest of the Radch. I know I won't be the only one hoping that the author picks up these threads again at some point in the future and I'm also pretty certain I'll be re-reading these books again at some point!