I’ve read and reviewed this novel in November 2013. Enjoy the unaltered text copied over from GoodReads.
“Grab handgun, shoot tyran'”, that’s the novel’s essence. It isn’t that easy, of course: the tyrant as well as the protagonist is facetted in multiple alter egos, which forms the main idea. Ann Leckie is really inventive how to bring this concept to the reader. And the tyrant is specially armored, the story spans several time levels and interleaved point of views.
My main problem: The novel simply didn’t grab me at all – it was more urgent for me to cuddle my cat or do my tax than to read it. It took 60% to get started, a couple of chapters involved acquiring a handgun.
It was more like a short stories’ open ending without the surprising factor: You’ve seen it coming a loooong way and then it was quite abrupt for the huge setup.
It should really have been way shorter. For a novel of that length, there should have been more closure than what was given to us. And I simply don’t accept it as a series’ start.
World-building was fine – with religions and politics. But when the protoganist isn’t interested in performing the religious activities, why should I? I simply didn’t care, didn’t get involved. It was only at the last third of the novel that I was looking forward to know how it would proceed.
Prose was fine as well – not too elaborate, not too trivial.
In the end, I couldn’t say that I like it. It probably is a work that you have to read considering the recent hype about it. Maybe it will grab some awards or be considered as a classic later on. It has the potential of being read twice, maybe I’ll pick up some other factors that will drive my interest. But currently, I have to say that it was just ok.
Update from 2021: That novel was in fact awarded with several awards: Arthur C. Clarke Award, BSFA, Hugo, Kitschies, Locus, and Nebula. I didn’t read it again since then and don’t plan to. But I have read two stories by her: Africanfuturism novelette “The Justified” (review) and Fantasy short story “We Continue” (review), and both were really good.