Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy is a very good book, but it’s a terrible end to a trilogy. In some ways, it doesn’t even seem to be trying to do that job.
Because, so, Ancillary Justice set up a universe and a conflict and launched everything into motion in a huge way, with stakes for all of human civilization. And then Ancillary Sword went off and focused on a small backwater as kind of a microcosm of this big conflict. Which was fine as far as it went, but it felt like a bit of detour from the larger story that was set up in the first volume. So it was a reasonable assumption that the third book would take the events of the second book, and bring them back up to the larger scale.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, the third book seems to be a direct sequel to the second book—it takes place in the same backwater, dealing with the same characters and the same conflicts, and the larger story only barely breaks into it at all, and certainly isn’t resolved satisfactorily.
And so in its own right, Ancillary Mercy is a good book—it’s enjoyable and fast paced and smart. And if it were the second half of Ancillary Sword and the real third volume was still forthcoming, I’d be extremely excited about it and looking forward to the next book. But to all appearances, Leckie really thinks this is the concluding volume of her trilogy and that she’s done now, which… you know, I like endings that just point the way toward the inevitable conclusion, but this isn’t even that. This isn’t an ending at all.
So that sounds negative and all, but like I say: This was a very good book, and if it turns out that this isn’t really “the end,” then there’s no problem at all. So all of my discontent with this book can be easily solved if Leckie keeps writing in this universe, and treats this “trilogy” as just the start of a longer series. Here’s hoping she does.