The story is in two parts, divided temporally. In an earlier time, a living ship and her “ancillaries”, human bodies taken over by the ship’s intellect, serve the Radch, a ruthless empire ruled by an even more ruthless leader. In a later time, what is left of the ship’s intellect, inhabiting a human body, is on a quest to find a mythical weapon in order to exact revenge.
The premise is very intriguing, and the world-building top notch. It is a fascinating society where familial connections are everything and strict obedience mandatory, with dissent punished by death immediately. Outside the Radch, things are looser, and people see the Radch as rather strange, if very powerful.
While the writing is fine, the characterization excellent, and the story intriguing, this book has a serious flaw that prevented me from getting more than a third of the way in. It seems completely devoid of humor. The characters having no sense of humor may be understandable, but unfortunately the writing lacks any twinkle or spark. This makes the whole affair very dull. I can see the skill in the writing but after a while this became a slog which I didn’t feel like continuing.