I never know to say in these things. I guess that says something about me. I read a lot, write stories, and like books. I like a good debate. Nothing else is to say. :-)
It would be hard to live up to the first book of this series. It was something so different and exciting and with the awards and hype...it would have been easy to fail to live up to everyone's expectation. But I think this second book was almost as good as the first one.
While it had less physical action as the first book, which had a big job of introducing the world and characters and setting up all the conflicts, this one had more internal action. If that is a thing. Kind of like the "Goblin Emperor" which I read some months ago…this portion of Breq's tale was more about her personal growth, and her adjustment to living life on her own. She is learning how to use her unique status to her benefit, and her history as an Ancillary to be a better Fleet Captain. In the first book she was singularly focused on her mission; her revenge for Awn. So she had no time to contemplate too much her situation, or to allow for too much reflection I think. But now she is back in some kind of everyday life and that is when your past traumas and everything you tried to ignore, while keeping yourself busy comes slamming into you. So this book was more about Breq's internal struggle, than her external.
The plot of the book tied into the first book and it gave us the reader more insight into the universe, and all its different parts, people and history. The politics of that universe was complicated before we were introduced to it in the first book, but now with the split between the Emperor and himself, it is even more of a clusterfuck. And of course the resolution of the plot also leads to more mysteries that I I'm sure will show up in the next book. I liked the hint of an old enemy hiding in wait. With the universe in chaos, what better time to attack and cause panic and confusion?
And of course I liked the common themes of both books. Gender. Unlike the first book, I stopped wondering whether each character has typically physically male or female parts. Everyone is “she”, unless specified for specific world building or plot reasons, and I have come to accept that. Last book I found myself trying to figure it out, it made you almost uncomfortable not knowing. Imagine living in a world where no distinction is made between genders? I'm still fascinated by this concept, and love it to death. Another theme is of course Colonization. The emperor has conquered most of the known universe, and has taken over many worlds. These worlds all had their own history and customs, and religions…many of which were replaced or pushed to the side by a conquering people who claim it is for your betterment. How do the people normally react? Who assimilates, and who fights, even if it is small actions of defiance. We all react differently to being conquered; to being enslaved. Some fight till death, others assimilate in order to survive and fight another way, and some also just give in and accept. No matter the time or place, whenever another race sets out to conquer and "civilize" other people, only pain, violence and injustice seems to follow. And war.
I thought this would be a short review. But I apparently had more to say than I thought.
In final: Can't wait for the next book, and I am kind of pleased that I am not sure how it will all end. But one hint I see sprinkled here and there is a hint of maybe some romance coming? Breq doesn’t see everything people are thinking and feeling and I am sure she is clueless about this as well. I would enjoy that. *hint*