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Sequel to "Crown of Slaves" in the Honor Harrington Universe
on 31 January 2010
This story is the fifteenth full length novel in the "Honorverse" group of novels set some 2,000 years in the future. It is the second novel, after "Crown of Slaves (Honorverse)" where the main focus is on the struggle for freedom of the former "genetic slaves" against the slavemasters who operate through a company called "Manpower" but who are now revealed to the reader as being controlled by an organisation known to its inner core as the "Mesan Alignment." Everyone assumes that Manpower is simply a rich and corrupt company of genetic slavers. Unfortunately for the galaxy they are much, much more than that ...
There is a large cast of characters but the main heroes are two unlikely allies whose home planets are at war: the Manticoran super-spy Anton Zilwicki and the Havenite super-spy Victor Cachat.
This book has two simultaneous plots, one of which is a spy story while the other culminates in a space battle.
If you have not read any of the "Honorverse" books and are interested in doing so, do not start with this one: I would recommend starting with the first book in the main Honor Harrington sequence which is "On Basilisk Station (Honorverse)."
The first thirteen Honorverse novels, despite being Space Opera stories set in the far future, had very strong parallels with the story of Nelson's navy up to 1805. The central character of most of these books, Honor Harrington, is a bit like a female mix of Horatio Nelson and Horatio Hornblower. Assumed technology in the stories imposes constraints on space navy officers quite similar to those which the technology of fighting sail imposed on wet navy officers two hundred years ago.
Similarly, the galactic situation in the novels up to the battle of Manticore at the end of "At All Costs (Honorverse)" (which corresponds to Trafalgar) had marked similarities to the strategic and political situation in Europe at the time of the French revolutionary wars.
However, having finished the interesting parts of the battles at sea between the Royal Navy and the French Navy, the story is turning into something completely different. In this book and "Storm from the Shadows (Honorverse)" (SFTS) the reader learns that the genetic slaver company called "Manpower" is merely a front for something far more powerful and dangerous, known to its inner circle as "The Mesan Alignment".
Anyone who has read "War of Honor (Honorverse)" and "At All Costs" (AAC) already knows that "Manpower" has done even worse things than trafficking in slaves: a major part of the story is whether the heroes will succeed in finding proof of what the Mesan Alignment has already done, discovering why they've done it and what they're planning, and surviving to get the information back to Manticore and Haven.
OVERLAP ALERT - The most recent six books in the "Honorverse" describe essentially the same events from three different perspectives. Consequently there are substantial overlaps. In particular, some quite lengthy conversations between the leaders of the Mesan Alignment are repeated verbatim in both this book and SFTS as the Mesans plan their attacks both against Michelle Henke in the Talbott Quadrant and against Torch.
Similarly, the scene on Honor Harrington's flagship in AAC when she gets two very surprising vistors is described here from the perspective of those visitors and this is just one of several scenes from AAC which are repeated in this volume.
Weber tries hard to stop such repetition from spoiling the book, and IMHO largely succeeds. But the other irratating aspect of this to the reader, though it is entirely realistic, is that characters in this book often have to refer in awkward ways to events and systems about which they have incomplete information while those systems are completely familiar to readers of "At All Costs." For exmple, the characters in "Torch of Freedom" have to refer to the Apollo fire control system with expressions like "whatever Lady Harrington used at Lovat".
This worked for me but might not work for all readers. Those who have read SFTS and AAC may find the some of the book repetitive despite Weber's efforts to avoid this. However, those who have not read AAC may find the oblique references to the war Honor Harrington is fighting on another front to be aggravatingly incomplete. If you are planning to read both, I recommend that you tackle "At All Costs" before this one.
I liked the character development in this story. Albrecht Detweiler, the new primary "baddie" introduced in this story and SFTS, is an interesting and complex person for the reader to love to hate, combining as he does some of the characteristics of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (without the cat), Dr Soong from Star Trek Enterprise (without the scruples), and the Emperor of Cetaganda from the Miles Vorkosigan Universe (without the humour.) Other new characters include the matriarch of a decaying space version of Disneyland and the security officer for an evil regime who has the misfortune to develop a conscience.
And BTW, if you like to see the bad guys (and girls) get their comeuppance, you have to read this book to find out what happens to one of the villains of "The Shadow of Saganami (Saganami)."
LIST OF HONORVERSE BOOKS
As hinted at above, the Honor Harrington series (sometimes nicknamed the "Honorverse") has developed two spin-off storylines. Stories set in this Universe fall into three groups, although they link together in a reasonably consistent manner.
There is the main sequence, currently of 11 novels with number 12 on the way, which follow the career of Honor Harrington herself. This main sequence is:
1) On Basilisk Station
2) Honor of the Queen (Honorverse)
3) The Short Victorious War (Honor Harrington)
4) Field of Dishonour
5) Flag in Exile
6) Honor among Enemies
7) In Enemy Hands
8) Echoes of Honor
9) Ashes of Victory
10) War of Honor
11) At All Costs
12) Mission Of Honor (Honor Harrington), which is set after "Torch of Freedom" and pulls all three perspectives back together again
There are currently four collections in the "Worlds of Honor" series of short stories by Weber and co-authors set in the same universe, and featuring a range of characters, some from the main series of books, others new.
Some of these are espionage stories: Weber has produced a book called "Crown of Slaves" co-written with Eric Flint, which brings together several of the most prominent spies from the novels and short stories in a novel of intrigue and revolution. This book, "Torch of Freedom" is the sequel to "Crown of Slaves".
And then there is a sort of "Next Generation" sequence, dealing mostly with events in the Talbott Cluster and the relationship between Manticore and the Solarian Republic based on Old Earth. This sequence starts with "The Shadow of Saganami" and follows on with "Storm from the Shadows." and features some younger officers in the Grayson and Manticoran navies such as Helen Zilwicki and Abigail Hearns.