Story: 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.
This book seems to be making the point that there are worse enemies to have than Haven, and it certainly achieves this, giving Honor (and just about everyone else) a cabal of pirates who are serial murderers and serial rapists, never mind being the spacelanes’ equivalent of highwaymen. Honor and the Haven crews she claims as humanely-treated POWs can at least join forces long enough to beat these unsavory characters to a pulp. The neighboring nations of Anderman and Silesia are built up in enough detail that I know better than to think that we’ll never be hearing from them again.
Perhaps the biggest gear shift in “Honor Among Enemies” is that, for the first time, Honor’s crew contains some genuinely bad apples. Not officers who secretly harbor resentment toward their captain or her loose-cannon reputation, but genuine mutineers with no qualms about killing their own crewmates. Most of this strand of the plot is seen through the eyes of a junior crewman, who gets roughed up and then trains until he’s ready to fight back – you can almost hear the training montage music from any given Rocky movie in your head. The other most unexpected element is that a beloved major character who’s been in all the books so far gets some action – but to say more than that would be telling.
This book is also notable for the first appearance of cover art by David Mattingly, who – after the first few books’ hit-and-miss scattershot of artists – finally nails the look of the Honorverse and its characters and starts to set a consistent look to things that’s still stylized, but much more realistic and true to the descriptions in the books. With the exception of a couple of the anthology books outside of the main Honor Harrington range, Mattingly has been the shepherd of the Honorverse’s “look” for over ten years now – so much so that Baen footed the bill for him to redo the covers of all of the earlier Honorverse novels for their later reprints.
A little bit paint-by-numbers at times, “Honor Among Enemies” keeps things just fresh enough to keep you guessing, while still hitting some of the series’ prerequisite beats.
Author: David Weber