a blue head

Herdedwords.com uses affiliate links. This means we receive a commission on the sale of certain items. This is at NO additional cost to you. Visit the policies page to learn more.

The cover for the award winning novel ANCILLARY JUSTICE

ANCILLARY JUSTICE, published in 2013, is a Science Fiction novel by Ann Leckie. It’s book 1 in the Ancillary World trilogy.

ANCILLARY JUSTICE won the 2014 Hugo Award. Fox Television Studies has purchased the option to create a TV series.

“That’s the swill you serve your customers.” Hoots from the patrons behind me. I reached into a pocket, pulled out a handful of chits, and tossed them on the bench. “Keep the change.” I turned to leave.


On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.


Ancillary Justice is used as an example in the following posts. Check them out!

Comparison of Point of ViewA comparison of point of view in literature (first, third limited, and omniscient) including modern fiction examples. Which is right for your novel?
First Person Point of ViewMe, myself, and I are examples of first person point of view. Check out five times you should use first POV for your novel.
the Inciting IncidentMaster the inciting incident with these 4 essential elements.
the ResolutionWhat’s the purpose of the resolution? Find out and see if you should skip it.
the Main CharacterLearn the 3 required qualities of main character with modern fiction examples.
the AntagonistLearn the 4 types of antagonists, get 5 tips for writing an antagonist, and see modern fiction examples.
Dialogue TagsLearn why “___ said” is the best dialogue tag you can use (plus breakdowns of modern fiction).


Ancillary Justice defaults to the she pronoun as a descriptor because gender isn’t a concept in the Radchaai language. I really dislike when I perceive a gimmick in a book and that’s how this felt to me.

At first, I was intrigued. The idea of a genderless world and Breq’s discomfort at guessing genders (on a planet that does use gender) seemed like it could be interesting. However, it was never used as anything other than “hey, gender’s not a thing.” There was so much potential but in the end, it was never anything.

But that’s not even my main issue with Ancillary Justice. My issue is with the plot and pacing. The book alternates chapters between now and the past. So you’re seeing Breq NOW but also seeing how she got there. The past was the more interesting story, but it was dimmed (or ruined) because you were given the current story simultaneously.

Anyways, there was so much about this book that I wanted to like, but overall it fell short in all aspects. I’d recommend skipping Ancillary Justice. But that’s just my opinion, what do others think?

Breq is SUCH a cool main character.

– Danielle Maurer

In short, I cannot find fault with Ancillary Justice, an accomplishment made all the more extraordinary by the fact that it’s Leckie’s debut novel

– Aidan Moher

The most interesting part of Ancillary Justice was the worldbuilding, and that was tepid at best.

 – Fritz Freiheit
a typewriter filled with plants

Writing Practice

It’s time to start practicing. Try the following writing exercises and prompts inspired by ANCILLARY JUSTICE.


Your Task: This is the opening paragraph(s) of the novel. Ignore everything you know about the story and use it as a writing prompt.

Using as much detail as possible, write another 300+ words.

Chapter 1

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celsius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town.

Exercise: Gender Analysis

The go-to pronoun when unsure of gender is usually ‘he,’ occasionally ‘it’ or ‘they.’ ANCILLARY JUSTICE chose to use female pronouns.

We’re told this, and given the reason why on the second page.

She was probably male, to judge from the angular mazelike patterns quilting her shirt. I wasn’t entirely certain. It wouldn’t have mattered, if I had been in Radch space. Radchaai don’t care much about gender, and the language they speak—my own first language—doesn’t mark gender in any way. This language we were speaking now did, and I could make trouble for myself if I used the wrong forms.

Your Task: Go through a random part of the book and list out 10+ examples of female pronoun use. Group them into two categories –
1) female pronoun use when the gender is unknown
2) female pronoun use when the gender is male

Once you have a list, complete the following. There aren’t really any right or wrong answers – so use your judgment and opinions. Think about these seriously and write complete answers.

Think About It:

1) I think the use of female pronouns (added to / subtracted from / made no difference to) the plot of ANCILLARY JUSTICE because __________.

2) When a character was revealed to be male, I felt __________ because __________.

3) It’s been said that the novel feels like it’s a universe of women. I (agree / disagree / didn’t notice). This affected my opinion of the novel because/by __________.

4) If the goal was to make the novel feel gender-neutral, I think it (succeeded / failed / somewhere in between) because __________.

5) Think of at least 2 alternative ways you could make a novel gender-neutral. Compare your ideas against ANCILLARY JUSTICE.
– Would one of them have been better? Why or why not?
– What are the pros of each?
– What are the cons of each?

6) How did the lack of gender identification affect your visualization of the characters?

7) Have you read any other gender-neutral novels?

8) Read this interview by Feminist Frequency with the author, Ann Leckie. How do your thoughts and opinions about the gender pronouns compare to hers?

Exercise: Plot

Is ANCILLARY JUSTICE a plot-driven novel? A character driven novel? Or something in between? Let’s find out.

Your Task:
Step 1: Fill in a plot diagram, without opening the book.
– What do you remember?
– Which parts are clear?
– How much detail can you provide?

Step 2: Now open the book, change pen/font colors, and fill in any missing details.

Think About It:
– How much of the plot diagram could you fill out in part 1?
– Did you have to make many changes when you did Part 2?
– How does ANCILLARY JUSTICE follow a regular plot structure? How does it deviate?
– Is ANCILLARY JUSTICE plot-driven or character-driven? How do you know?

the interior of a spaceship


GenreScience Fiction & Fantasy
First Published
Oct 01, 2013
Print Length
(according to amazon)
393 pages
File Size
(according to amazon)
1,525 KB
Goodreads Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
Goodreads rating for ANCILLARY JUSTICE
Amazon Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
Amazon customer rating for the novel ANCILLARY JUSTICE
Buy Now

What Do You Think?

Pin This: Book Review & Analysis of ANCILLARY JUSTICE


If so, what did you think? If not, will you?

Like this post? Please PIN IT and follow me on social media. Thanks!

PS. share your exercises in the comments below. I’d love to see them.


Pin This: Book Review & Analysis of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE


Pin This: Book Review & Analysis of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

Wait! Get Exclusive Content!

Stay up to date with exclusive weekly writing tips, prompts, exercises, and more!