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Ashes Of Victory

Ashes Of VictoryOrder this bookStory: Honor Harrington’s triumphant return home from her miraculous jailbreak from the prison planet Hell, deep within enemy territory in the People’s Republic of Haven, becomes a rallying crew among her own people on Mantocore and Grayson – and a massive public embarrassment for Haven, whose officials not only claimed to have executed her, but created “news footage” of the event to prove it. The two remaining top leaders on Haven are not only trying to dance around that issue, but they find themselves growing increasingly wary of their own hand-picked Secretary of War, whose charisma could command more respect from the military than Haven’s own leaders do. Honor is taken off of active duty as she recovers from the brutal injuries she suffered on Hell, but this also clears the way for her promotion to admiral and an opportunity to teach advanced tactics at the legendary Saganami Island Academy. As Honor shapes the future of Manticore’s military, other events are set into motion that will change the future of both sides of the war.

Review: “Ashes Of Victory” has a feeling of being a pause in the ongoing Honor Harrington saga…albeit a pause where a lot manages to happen. The moment Honor is relieved of active duty to recuperate, rather than being patched up and sent back into battle, you know that “Ashes” isn’t going to be a typical book in the series (if indeed there is such a thing at this point). David Weber spends a lot of time behind enemy lines, setting up monumental events from the Haven side of the story, and certain tactical advantages on Manticore’s side that have been built up since the previous book turn out to be something of a red herring. Continue reading

Field Of Dishonor

Field Of DishonorField Of DishonorOrder this bookStory: Honor Harrington has known fellow starship captain Pavel Young for her entire career – going back to their academy days, where he used his family’s privelege to get out from under charges that he tried to rape her, and back to Basilisk Station, where he tried to hang her out to dry…and back to the battle for Hancock Station, where Young ordered his ship to flee formation during a critical moment, causing the loss of thousands of Manticoran lives. But just as Young has made a career of slipping through the fingers of justice, Honor has made a career of surviving, and when Young is court-martialed for fleeing, he tries to even the score one last time by hiring an assassin to force a duel with Honor’s lover, Captain Paul Tankersley – a duel Paul doesn’t stand a chance of winning. Already laying low to avoid the press during a political firestorm, Honor sets out for vengeance, even if it means destroying her career in the process.

Review: I didn’t really set out to review two consecutive Honor Harrington books, but “Field Of Dishonor” reads at a white heat and it’s hard to put down. With its own inevitable rhythm of a march into battle, “Field” takes on the issue of letting politics dictate military policy (and leaves no doubt that author David Weber thinks it’s a bad idea). Continue reading

The Honor Of The Queen

The Honor Of The QueenThe Honor Of The QueenOrder this bookStory: With her exploits at Basilisk Station having become the stuff of Royal Manticoran Navy legend, Captain Honor Harrington finds her next challenge a bit more daunting. With Manticore’s enemies, the People’s Republic of Haven, trying to gain a foothold in a star system close to Manticore space, a fleet – including Honor’s new HMS Fearless, a massive battlecruiser named in honor of her first command – is dispatched to the planet Grayson to open diplomatic relations and gain a foothold for Manticore as well. The somewhat backward Grayson is primitive both technologically and socially, with its patriarchal society regarding women as the property of men – and when the Graysons see a woman in command of the Manticoran fleet arriving at their planet, the reactions range from curious to openly hostile. Worse yet, the Graysons’ sworn enemies, the government of the planet Masada, are the same, only they hold to a fanatical desire to wipe Grayson off the star charts – and they’ve found a willing ally and weapons supplier in the People’s Republic of Haven. Honor is tasked with a mission to ensure a treaty is signed between Manticore and Grayson, but before long she’s not sure if she’s welcome, or safe, among her new allies.

Review: The slow-building sequel to David Weber’s first Honor Harrington book, “The Honor Of The Queen” shows an evolving universe, evolving characters and an evolving writing style. Compared to “On Basilisk Station”, this book suffers from much less of the momentum-killing tendency to drop 16 tons of exposition and technical backstory into the middle of a gripping battle scene. When things happen in “The Honor Of The Queen”, Weber wisely allows the action to thunder down the tracks on its own steam; the result is a breathless page-turner. Continue reading

On Basilisk Station

On Basilisk StationOn Basilisk StationOrder this bookStory: Commander Honor Harrington, a promising if unconventional up-and-coming command officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy, arrives aboard her new command – the outdated cruiser Fearless, whose armaments have been stripped to make way for an experimental new weapon, the grav lance, which proves to be effective in fleet exercises…but only until its first use, after which the Fearless is pummeled in the fleet’s wargames. As punishment, Harrington, the Fearless, and her new crew are assigned to Basilisk Station – a backwater customs inspection posting on the frontier of Manticore space usually reserved for officers and ships fallen from favor. Worse yet, the ship currently commanding the Basilisk Station operation is due for a refit, leaving Fearless and her limited resources to cover an impossible area of space. When Honor deploys her crew to cover all of the bases and conduct the routine inspections, she is met with protests – apparently, no officer dumped at this posting has ever actually carried out the inspection duties. And that suits the neighboring rival government of the People’s Republic of Haven just fine – they’re planning to take Basilisk Station, the planet Medusa, and Basilisk’s strategically valuable wormhole junction away from Manticore. But Haven’s plan is dependent on Manticore’s long record of lax customs enforcement – and no one counted on Honor Harrington and the HMS Fearless uncovering the invasion plan, much less single-handedly stopping it.

Review: The kickoff of David Weber’s cult favorite Honor Harrington series, “On Basilisk Station” has a lot of ground to cover, from setting up the characters, the universe, their intricate political situation and the history that led to all of the above. The manner in which Weber accomplishes this task is something I would describe as elegant clumsiness. The author has worked out his universe, and why it is the way it is, in painstaking detail; if there’s a single fault, it’s frequently Weber’s timing in putting the story on pause to deliver enormous chunks of backstory. Make no mistake, he picks points in the story where the background information is directly related to the action at hand, but this doesn’t alter the pacing-killing fact that he puts the book’s climactic space battle on hold several times to tell you about, for example, the evolution of FTL travel in the Honorverse. It’s interesting stuff, but it’s appendix stuff (and the book still has an appendix containing more background information!), especially when the voice in the back of my skull is screaming “But there’s a bloody great space battle going on right now! Why are you telling me this now?” Continue reading

Echoes Of Honor

Echoes Of HonorOrder this bookStory: Although she and several of her fellow Manticoran and Grayson POWs escaped from the shady head of State Security for the People’s Republic of Haven, Honor Harrington and her two shuttles of escapees have still been stranded on the Havenites’ prison planet of Hell for months. Without the benefit of the food drops for the actual prisoners on Hell, Honor and her people are both worse off and better off than those in the prison camps. But she hasn’t given up, and with her crewmates – and the Havenite defector who helped them escape – she begins to put into motion an elaborate escape plan, involving taking over the central StateSec base camp (which also happens to control Hell’s deadly array of orbital defense plstforms) and then waiting for the next inbound prison ship. While her officers try to whip the freed prisoners of Hell into an effective fighting force, Honor prepares to spring a trap from deep inside Haven territory – and she aims for nothing less than freeing every POW and political prisoner on Hell. But back home, as far as her family and friends know, Honor Harrington and her surviving crew have already been executed.

Review: “Echoes Of Honor” is the most atypical book in the entire series for numerous reasons. The setting of the story, dictated by the cliffhanger ending of “In Enemy Hands”, takes Honor Harrington off the bridge and plunges her into the middle of bloody guerilla warfare. Previous books have shown her to be more than capable of defending herself, but the series hasn’t really covered ground engagements extensively. As usual, Weber lets us peek into Honor’s mind at the tactics underlying the whole thing, and it all seems to make sense, even if the strings of coincidences that make it all work stretch the envelope a bit. (This book may well contain the costliest game of chess-by-mail in literary history.) Continue reading

In Enemy Hands

In Enemy HandsOrder this bookStory: Promoted to Commodore after helping to turn the Manticoran Alliance’s fortunes around in the Silesian Confederacy, Honor Harrington is no longer in command of a single ship, but an group of ships dispatched to routine convoy duty in disputed space. When the People’s Republic of Haven, whose revolutionary government has just barely survived a mass assassination attempt, moves to take back a system conquered by Manticore, Honor and some of her most loyal crewmates past and present find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in custody. But despite the change of government at Haven, Honor’s “crimes” at Basilisk Station have not been forgotten, and she and Nimitz are sentenced to death.

Review: A serious shake-up after some of the previous Honor Harrington books settled into a nice pat formula, “In Enemy Hands” puts familiar characters on unfamiliar ground, and puts a fair few of them out of commission, and it does it without coming across as too cliched. And clearly author David Weber is setting up strands of plot for future consumption, and this time I can’t wait to see where they’ll lead – or how one of the series’ few honest-to-God cliffhangers will be resolved. Continue reading

Honor Among Enemies

Honor Among Enemies (original cover)Order this bookStory: As the war between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the People’s Republic of Haven grows in intensity, both sides’ attention turns to the space between the Silesian Confederacy and the Anderman Empire, where neutral shipping lanes have become ripe for raiders and pirates, costing both Manticore and Haven dearly. Honor Harrington is called up for duty aboard a Manticoran ship once again, an order she has the option to refuse but can’t bring herself to turn down. But her return to Manticoran uniform is anything but glamorous – she’ll be commanding a squadron of “helpless” merchant freighters retrofitted into warships – and her reinstatement has been engineered by old enemies bent on seeing her forced into a no-win situation. And if that’s not bad enough, then there are the forces at work against her within her own ship…

Review: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the course of slowly plowing through
the Honor Harrington series, it’s this: just about any ship and crew to whom we’re introduced outside of the first four chapters of any given book will not be returning to the shipyards intact by the last chapter. It’s the Honorverse’s equivalent of redshirts, dished up – and done away with – a couple thousand at a time. David Weber always walks a fine line here, making sure we know that Manticore’s most capable captain always has her eyes – and her conscience – trained on the body count. Though in “Honor Among Enemies,” Weber makes sure that the bad guys are so bad that no one’s really sorry to see them go. Continue reading

The Short Victorious War

The Short Victorious War (new cover)The Short Victorious War (original cover)Order this bookStory: Having recovered from the serious injures she sustained in the battle to protect Grayson, Captain Honor Harrington is assigned to her new command – the battlecruiser Nike, fresh out of Manticore’s shipyards and ready to take its place at the head of the fleet. Nike’s shakedown cruise is a little bumpy, however, delaying the ship’s participation in fleet wargames near the remote Hancock Station outpost – and giving Honor time to become friendly with Captain Paul Tankersley, overseeing Nike’s repairs at Hancock. But the wargames are in danger of becoming the real thing as the signs begin to point toward a sudden escalation in aggressive territorial moves from Manticore’s enemy, the People’s Republic of Haven. Eager to quell civil unrest within its own empire, the Havenite military plans a bold strategy to start a war with Manticore – intending all along to make it look like Manticore is the attacker.

Review: Whereas the first two books in the Honor Harrington series are more or less self-contained, with the universe’s backstory and a few tendrils connecting them, “The Short Victorious War” is clearly setting us up for big stuff down the road, while also giving the reader more than enough action to stay awake for. But this book shakes things up where storytelling in the Honorverse is concerned in other ways. Continue reading