On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship and an artificial intelligence controlling thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. But that might just be enough to take revenge against those who destroyed her.
Breq is hunting for the one thing that will allow her justice, for the great wrong that was done 20 years ago, when she was a giant starship AI controlling hundreds of ancillary bodies. Now, with only her remaining single body at her disposal, she runs across Captain Seivarden, who she knew a thousand years earlier. Breq saves her life, changing the whole course of her own revenge.
We get a fascinating backstory doled out in little pieces, as chapters alternate between Breq’s current quest, and what happened 20 years earlier. This is set in a huge universe, with different cultures being annexed by the all-consuming Radch, who think of themselves as the only civilised culture in the galaxy. There are interesting plays on language, gender, culture, and manners.
It is rather slow, but gradually as the truth emerges, we get to see the power, and the problems, of having multiple bodies, and of building your empire’s economy and culture around continual expansion.
Given a new ship and a troublesome crew, Breq is ordered to the only place in the galaxy she will agree to go: Athoek station, to protect the family of a lieutenant she once knew – a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.
Breq could flee with her ship and crew, but that would leave the people of Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren’t good, but that’s never stopped her before.