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3+/5: In which Breq becomes a Social Justice Warrior tackling such issues as abusive relationships, labor rights, and underprivileged groups.

...Um. So here's the thing. Obviously I loved this book. What's not to love? Breq goes in and basically stomps all over a bunch of mean nasty people, forcing them to examine their yucky assumptions and treat underprivileged people and groups better. It's super tropey wish fulfillment; it's awesome. Leckie also is aware of the fact that some things can't be changed, some people won't change the way they think, no matter what, and that's well done.

There's also some lovely hurt/comfort with Breq and Mercy of Kalr (I adore Mercy of Kalr, by the way), again on the theme of -- some things can't be fixed, but they can at least be made a little better.

In terms of the overarching characterization and storyline, I just don't know. I'm not totally convinced by SJW!Breq for the same reason I was convinced by AncillaryJustice!Breq; it seems to me that someone who has spent, literally, hundreds of years in the Radchaai mindset would have a harder time completely letting go of Radchaai assumptions, no matter how devastating the incident with Lieutenant Awm was, even though many years have passed since then. (Think, for example, of how even in this book, it is Awm alone who is the focus of all Breq's anguish, not all the deaths visited on the people in Shis'urna, who are if I remember correctly not even mentioned in Sword. That's the kind of tunnel vision I expect from a Radchaai.)

It's also, of course, a little disquieting that Breq sails in as the member of the dominant race who is going to save all the poor benighted savages from themselves. I mean... there's certainly an argument to be made (and Leckie makes it) that the poor benighted savages are too ground down to save themselves, and another argument (which Leckie also makes) about empowering them to save themselves. But it still kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

There's also this kind of important storyline with the Lord of the Radsch which gets sidelined! Breq is going around setting up labor disputes while... the... entire empire is possibly falling to pieces? The alien Presger may or may not swoop in and kill them all? Tiswarwat is set up as this great honking McGuffin that goes nowhere (so far)! This does not bode well for everything getting tied up neatly given that as far as I know there is only one more book to go. I mean, I still believe she can do it, but more movement in that direction would have been nice.

So, I mean, I liked it! And you will probably really like it too! Because tropey goodness and the triumph of social justice (except when it is satisfyingly grim because it would be unrealistic for SJ to win it all) are very satisfying! But I feel like it doesn't attain the deeper level of thoughtfulness and engaging with tough questions that I wanted it to (for example, I thought Le Guin thought much more interestingly about the anarchy she depicts in The Dispossessed -- which is also rather lower on the satisfying smackdowns for the same reason), and it cleanly misses the jump from entertaining to classic that Justice was struggling with and that I hoped this book would help with. But it's definitely very enjoyable.
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