Story: 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.
Or, at least the second half of the book is. Much of the first half is spent on setting up the not-all-that-complex web of machincations that tie Grayson and Masada together, and telling their combined backstory. The good news is that this first half of the book, while a little thin on action, stitches together a cast of characters whose personalities help shape the action once it does get rolling. Some are survivors of the first book (not a term I use lightly, as a tour of duty aboard the Fearless seems to be an incredibly dangerous assignment given the examples to date) and one gets the distinct impression that other characters will be making an impact down the road. The character interactions alone keep the first half afloat.
“The Honor Of The Queen” also deals heavily, and in places heavy-handedly, with a topic that “On Basilisk Station” didn’t even touch, and that is equality (or lack thereof) of the sexes. Among the Manticoran characters, it’s not even an issue; you know from the beginning of the first book that Honor Harrington is the best they’ve got, and it doesn’t matter that she’s female or male. For the first time, as a plot point, it matters, not just to Honor but to her crew as well. Sometimes Weber’s just about jackhammer subtle with it too, but it helps to point up the difference between Grayson and Manticore.
Fans of the series and characters should also enjoy the book’s most vivid action scene, which takes place at a dinner party of all places, and finally gives us a glimpse of Nimitz, Honor’s semi-telepathic treecat, doing something other than “bleek”ing, munching on celery, and empathizing with his human counterpart. It also shows us what kind of damage Honor herself can do when she’s not in the relative safety of a starship bridge.
So the canvas widens, the saga continues and the action reaches new levels – on the whole, good stuff. There’s not much more you could ask for from the second book in the series.
Author: David Weber