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on 19 June 2014
David Weber's highly readable series immerses us again into the fascinating and engaging realms of Safehold, where Merlin Athrawes and his Charisian allies continue to fight against the might and corruption of the Church of God Awaiting. In this forth volume, the stakes for both sides continue to mount and the far larger issues behind this begin to become more apparent to those who must risk all to save the future of their world and of mankind. Beautifully written, with some great characters and an increasingly expanding scope of plot - well worth a read.
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on 20 May 2010
I love many things about this mans writing. Literally.
Except for his addiction to the use of completely unnecessary "Literallys", (amongst other intensifiers which abound) which do tend to grate.

Where are the companion "Figurativelys"? I do feel sorry for their Literally gratuitous lack.

Seriously however - this book.

The premise of this series is fantastic - I love it and I love the alliteration to the Roman Catholic church and it's historic (and not so historic) abuses of power and privilege.

But - the story is huge in scope and time - the author has arrived at the fourth book of a series which will hopefully lift the religiously-benighted souls of Safehold back to the stars and triumph over the Gbala.

Well - I'm sorry to realise that both the Author and I will be dead at this rate, well before Clyntahn is dealt with.

There are many poor choices in this book, from Irys and her continuing 'fog of menace'. Really poor tactical decisions with regard to allowing the launch of the Church's Galleons - why not destroy them on the slipways? The ridiculous 'remote task force' - and with so many more people involved with the SNARC analysis the complete lack of foresight regarding Thirsk as a menace.

I like the fact that Nimue is being more pro-active and spreading her PICA out a bit more.

BUT in HER scheme of things it would make more sense if sometimes her role was more active in dealing with threats - as happened with Erayk Dynnys in the first (very good - if a bit literal) book.

Mr Weber would do well to look at how lost the Wheel of Time series became after the third or fourth book.

Tighten it up!

PLEASE - stop it with the intensifiers!

Keep writing!
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on 14 May 2010
This installment of the Safehold saga was a real disappointment. There is no overall story, just several (not very interesting) minor developments and mopping up of incomplete issues left over from previous books. The story doesn't really go anywhere, flitting between one set of minor characters to another. If you've read the first three books of the Safehold series you're probably going to buy this one as well, but you also probably won't be particularly satisfied by it.

If you've read the first three of these and haven't read any of the Honor Harrington books then wait for this in paperback and get yourself a copy of "On Basilisk Station". Now that's a fun book.
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on 12 May 2010
So, this is the 4th volume in the Safehold series, and let's face it, if you've been reading this far, you're probably quite keen to continue the series.

But this volume, a 700+ page doorstopper, manages to break all previous records for poor pacing: virtually nothing happens. The whole thing feels like padding. Developments which were begun in previous books proceed predictably and obviously. No significant plot points are resolved. Some ships get sunk, but not in any interesting ways. Some entirely inconsequential conspiracies are exposed and destroyed. Some people are brought into the inner circle and some are not.

The cast of thousands (the character list in the back is now 22 pages long) all play their appointed parts with no particular surprises or notable developments. (And inevitably, the ever-increasing cast list makes the whole business of the, um, idiosyncratic names even more annoying than in previous books.) Only in one short scene does anything really unexpected happen, and it's not (so far as we know so far) anything that matters in the long term. Even Merlin's failures turn out not to carry any real weight.

All in all, this book could have been cut to about 10% of the size (or less!) and merged into the previous or the (presumably) following book without any great loss to the overall story. The charitable interpretation is that Weber has fallen too deeply in love with his characters and setting, in which case he desperately needs an editor with more clout.
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on 29 July 2010
I have enjoyed many of David Weber's previous novels, even the first couple in this series but this one was a stodge too far. The previous volume was starting to drag but was a non-stop action extravaganza compared to this.

Setting aside the saccharine-coated dialogue between the main characters, the self-indulgent nudge, nudge, wink "humorous banter" and to quote Book Slug "the overwhelming niceness" of them all, you are still left with a few dozen pages of story amongst many hundreds of pages of padding.

The whole book reminded me of the later Raymond Feist books (The Conclave of Dull Characters) only more so. An endless stream of boring committee meetings during which all the events of the previous books are regurgitated at second-hand (and in a more long-winded manner) by an ever growing cast of forgettable characters. As an ex civil servant I have had my share of long, dull meetings and perhaps this has prejudiced me against reading fifty-page-long chunks where half-a-dozen windy characters discuss troop dispositions or the minute details of some uninteresting religious debate at great length.

Perhaps some people are riveted by this, I do not know but, I for one have had a gut-full of it.
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on 3 July 2012
What was it about the first 1800-odd pages of the Safehold Series that made so many people think it would be over by book 4? I am not saying you have to prefer a 10 course taster menu to a big-mac and fries, just, if you start reading something with 'Series' on the cover expect 5-10 books at the minimum. After all, people tend to chuck trilogy on the cover if they can kill everyone bad and save the hero in under 1500 pages. This is an exciting, perfectly competent progression of an excellent series concept, that overall deserves a lot more than the paltry 2.4* rating it is currently averaging for its 4th instalment. The 5th book is even better and I have the 6th on pre-order. Yes this edition is a bit naval term heavy but the tech is winding up and the next book reveals the big twist (I wont spoil it) that will bring the Empire head to head with the Group of Four in book 6 [or 7 ;-)]. After that there is room for at least 2-3 more technological and societally developmental books before, I suspect, the key protagonists' sensors will start to pick up signals that the Gbaba are on the way. 10-12 book series is my guess, and if it keeps it up, worth every page.
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on 5 July 2010
I really liked the Safehold series up until this book. The books have been slowing down in pace as the series progresses but with this book it has slowed down too much and is mired in literary treacle. While the other books have been un-put-down-able this one was a bit of a struggle to motivate myself to read it. The authors self-indulgence in what is obviously his favourite subject (wooden warships) is very noticeable and should have been moderated by firmer editorial control in order to keep the overal series tone on an even keel (please excuse the pun). Hopefully the author has realised what he's been doing and will rectify the pacing in the next book.

Big disappointment after such a wonderful start.
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This is the fourth book in the "Safehold" serues in which the major character is Nimue Alban.

Some readers will enjoy this a lot, particularly those who are already hooked on the characters and situation as a result of reading the earlier books in the series. As with the first three, I found it impossible to put down. However, a significant chunk of David Weber's fanbase will get bored with this book because it goes into a lot of detail about things which not all of them will be interested in.

It's a massive book with 690 pages of story followed by another 30 pages or so of appendices (character index, glossary etc.) Most of the first 500 pages are taken up with a detailed account of the consolidation which the heroes of the story would have to carry out to incorporate the territory conquered in book three.

One sub-plot involves a beautiful but lengthy description of a journey through the savage Safehold winter for a minor character who has been summoned to the Temple where the anti-technological church which dominates the planet has its' HQ. Another sub-plot, as the bad guys in the Temple prepare to crush any internal opposition within the church by the most cruel and brutal means, involves the attempts by the doomed leaders of that opposition to give as many as possible of their families and supporters a chance to escape.

If you have become very attached to and interested in the characters built up over the first three books, and the world which Weber has built for them, you may enjoy this as much as I did. If, however, you are one of the many readers who enjoy David Weber's books mainly for the battles, this is probably a book to miss. There are two or three small-scale naval battles in the early part of the book. Finally towards the end, the Temple starts to move the huge fleets they have been building and, unusually for this series, takes the good guys by surprise. Which leads to some nail biting moments and a major fleet action at the climax of the book.

By this point in the series, the technology with which the naval battles are fought appears roughly comparable to that of the mid-seventeenth century. Weber shows that he can create sea battles similar to those of the age of fighting sail as well as he handles futuristic space battles.

But this book will probably, like "Storm from the Shadows" in the author's "Honor Harrington" universe, be one of the books which a significant part of the author's fanbase hate because there are not enough battles. And his propensity for describing the full text of meetings and conference calls may get irritating for some readers. This must be the only novel ever set on a world with mostly seventeenth century technology where the main characters spend a significant proportion of their time holding conference calls!

If you're going to read this series, start at the beginning and work through in order. The five "Nimue Alban"/Safehold books published or due to date are:

1) Off Armageddon Reef
2) By Schism Rent Asunder
3) By Heresies Distressed
4) This book, A Mighty Fortress
5) How Firm a Foundation (Safehold) (Due September 2011)

Not all the ideas are new: the story is an interesting re-working of a number of the ideas in a some of Weber's earlier books, particularly the Dahak trilogy "Mutineer's Moon," "The Armageddon Inheritance" and "Heirs Of Empire (Dahak series)" - the whole trilogy has also been published as "Empire from the Ashes". But IMHO Weber uses the experience he has gained in the meantime to re-use the same basic ideas more effectively and with some original twists.

For example, the alien attackers who are at war against humanity at the start of the first book, and the threat of whom hangs over subsequent books, will remind many Weber fans of the Kangas from "The Apocalypse Troll" and even more of the Achuultani from the "Dahak" trilogy.

The anti-technological church which the heroes and heroines are struggling against throughout the first four books bears a striking resemblance to the church on Pardal in "Heirs of Empire," the third book in the Dahak trilogy. But in both cases the presentation of those ideas is better done.

None of the statements in this review are spoilers for "A Mighty Fortress" but the following comments about the setting of this fourth book may infer more than you want to know about the outcomes of the first three books if you have not read them yet. If that is the case I suggest you navigate to the page for "Off Armageddon Reef" or the first book you have not yet read (see links above) without reading further.

The basic idea for the series is that in the 25th century, humanity finds evidence that other intelligent races have recently existed on nearby stars - but that a xenophobic alien race is exterminating them. The Terran Federation has just enough warning to make a fight of it when that enemy finds us and attacks ten years later. The war lasts fifty years - but at the end of that time it is obvious that humanity is losing.

Operation Ark, a final desperate attempt to plant a colony outside the area patrolled by the enemy, is launched. If they succeed, the colonists will face a choice: try to build a civilisation powerful enough to defeat the attackers, or abandon any technology which might attract their attentions and simply hide.

The anti-technological faction in the leadership of the new colony win, and set up a totalitarian theocracy whose main aim is to stifle any technical change. For eight hundred years nobody on the planet knew that it was a colony, that humanity has a deadly enemy out among the stars, or that the real reason for the ban on technology was to avoid attracting the attention of that enemy.

But eight hundred years after the founding of Safehold, a cyborg was activated with the mind and memories of Lieutenant-Commander Nimue Alban, a brilliant tactician who had been one of the thousands of people who gave their lives that the colony fleet could get through. When the corrupt leaders of the church attempted to destroy the nation of Charis for being a bit too innovative, as a warning to others, Nimue adopted the persona of "Merlin Athrawes" a warrior mystic, and helped them to defeat the initial church invasion.

At the start of this fourth book, through a mixture of war and brilliant diplomacy the young King of Charis, Cayleb, has created an empire comprising most of the maritime island nations in the part of Safehold around his original Kingdom. Most recently he has, with Merlin's help, conquered his nation's long-term enemy, Corisande. Unfortunately the Church managed to murder the ruler of that state - Prince Hector - when he was about to surrender, in such a way that many of the people of Corisande wrongly assume Cayleb was responsible for the assassination. This is making the assimilation of the country more difficult.

Meanwhile, in the Temple, the corrupt leaders of the Church are licking their wounds while they build a vast fleet and prepare to declare Holy War on Charis. And the evil Grand Inquisitor is also planning a terrible vengeance on anyone inside the church who gives him and his confederates less than 100% support ...
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on 11 June 2010
After a brilliant start with `Off Armageddon Reef', it's really disappointing that in subsequent books in this series the pace has slowed down to a crawl. The books are becoming filled with more padding than substance, surely only because the author is trying to stretch the series to 10 (or whatever) volumes. This latest volume has pages and pages of pure padding - material that contributes nothing to the background, and does nothing to move the story forward. Certainly it's a good thing when an author, having created a large canvas such as the Safehold world, makes the most of it and uses multiple volumes to explore the many facets of his basic idea, but Weber has carried this to an unwarranted extreme.

There are other niggles (e.g., humorous sarcasm - so often misplaced), though the writing is on the whole fine and it's clear the author can write a good story. I think though that this deliberate slowing of the pace represents a kind of contempt for his readers. Having hooked so many of us with the first in the series, and with a superb overall concept, it's difficult for a reader to stop, but from now on, I'll be looking for library copies or to buy second-hand.
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on 29 September 2013
Beginning to feel storyline getting strained. Not as flowing as earlier novels, don't think I will buy the next one.
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