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on 12 October 2011
I've read a fair amount of David Weber's stuff this year set in his Honorverse and following Honor Harrington, the heroine of the main series. Now we have the release of A Beautiful Friendship, the first in a new prequel teen series that focuses on one of Honor's ancestors, Stephanie Harrington. I'd heard about this a while back, but I hadn't read any of the Honorverse books at that time so I didn't pay it much attention. A bit of a mistake! Once I knew how much I enjoyed Weber's novels I got my order in for this straight away. My only real concern was whether or not I would be able to fully enjoy it knowing that it's the latest book written in such a large setting despite the prequel nature of the story. As is usually the case when I have these concerns there was no need at all. In fact, this is just about the perfect starting point...

Stephanie Harrington and her parents have recently moved to the Star Kingdom of Manticore, specifically the planet Sphinx within the binary system. Already the recipient of some genetic altering to live on a heavier gravity world, the Harrington family settles their homestead on the low populated frontier world. With a keen interest in the outdoors Stephanie is desperate to get out and about, but with Sphinx's native deadly species, such as the massive Hexapuma, her parents are not very keen on her venturing out on her own. Knowing that Stephanie won't disobey them, and trying to keep her mind active, they set her on the problem of the disappearing celery from human settlements around the planet. It isn't long before Stephanie discovers the mysterious thieves, and the possibility that Sphinx may already have its own sentient species in the treecats...

A Beautiful Friendship is partly based on the short story of the same name that appeared in one of the Honorverse anthologies and, while slightly amended, forms the first part of this new novel. I've not read the original story so I really didn't know what to expect other than a planet-based story focusing on a young main character. What struck me within the first few chapters was just how well it worked, how strong and interesting a character Stephanie is, and just how much I didn't know about the treecats!

Climbs Quickly is the main treecat character and it's through his eyes that we learn much about the history of human settlement on Sphinx and the way the treecats avoid and spy on the humans. We learn about their society, just how intelligent they are and, more importantly, just what they think of the humans, but this is an aspect that Climbs Quickly doesn't entirely agree with. Tasked to watch the two-legs we know as the Harrington's, he ponders many things while in discussion with his clan mates and while alone, and it helps the story immensely. It's when, after a trap set by Stephanie, he is caught trying to take celery that the story really gets into gear.

The treecats of Sphinx are telepathic, and while they can talk to each other in this manner they can't do so with humans, although a strong bond can form between two of them, much like it does between mated treecats. It's interesting because it is a two-way bond, the human can also feel the treecat, although this does increase with time and is never full telepathy, more like empathy. The climax of the first part of the novel is down to this aspect and is thoroughly enjoyable, setting the scene for all that is to come.

While the human/treecat relationship is one of the larger focuses of the story, so is the possibility, from the humans point of view, of them being sentient. But it's an aspect that Stephanie, her parents, and the others close to treecats wish to take slowly and carefully, not wanting a repeat of the mass-slaughter that occurred when another human-settled planet discovered they may not be the rightful owners.

It's during these aspects of the story that I found it was confused with just what it wanted to be. A Beautiful Friendship is marketed as a teen series, and while having the lead character a young female lends itself to that area, the writing is not really suited. Sometimes it works well and flows nicely, but at other times Weber shows his usual style of info-dumping and getting into more adult and complex themes. Stephanie herself seems a little too old for her age because of this, and it does effect the overall enjoyment of the novel. Had it simply been marketed as a prequel to the Honorverse there would have been little issue, although the uneven pacing does stand out.

Overall I did thoroughly enjoy A Beautiful Friendship, but it's not without its faults. I've only read a few of the Honorverse books so I felt relatively comfortable with both the setting and Weber's style, although this is a clear departure from the military themes of the Honor Harrington novels. I think it's a perfect starting point for anyone new to the Honorverse, but is it representational of the other books? No. However, if you know this going in I can't see any reason why A Beautiful Friendship shouldn't be enjoyed to the maximum!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 October 2011
"A Beautiful Friendship" by David Weber, which is now the first book in a trilogy, is a novel-length extended version of an excellent short story set in the Universe of David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series but some four hundred years earlier. The original short story was first published in the collection "More Than Honor" and can also be found in the more recent anthology "Worlds Of Weber."

"A beautiful friendship" describes how Stephanie Harrington, a twelve-year-old girl from the first generation of Honor Harrington's family to move to the Manticore system, became the first human to be "adopted" by a Sphinx treecat. She calls him Lionheart, although the reader will be aware that his treecat name is Climbs Quickly.

At the time of updating this review two sequels to this book have come out, and the three books about Stephanie Harrington and Climbs Quickly, described on the dust jacket as "Star Kingdom" novels, are

1) A Beautiful Friendship
2) "Fire Season"
3) "Treecat Wars (Star Kingdom (Weber))"

These books are particularly aimed at older children and young adults, but if I am anything to go by, adult readers can enjoy them too.

For anyone who has never read any of the Honor Harrington books, "Treecats" are a small arborial sentient species native to the planet Sphinx who look a bit like six-legged cats with long tails. Among themselves they are fully telepathic: they can read the "Mind-glows" of humans well enough to be empathic, e.g. they can sense emotions but not read thoughts. Treecats find the mind-glows of many humans attractive and in some circumstances a human and a treecat can form a lifelong bond similar to those between the human and dragon characters of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight series. This relationship is referred to in Weber's novels as "adoption."

This book tells the story of the first such bonding, of how Stephanie came to be known as "Death Fang's Bane" among the treecats, and of the struggle to have treecats recognised as an intelligent species with legal rights corresponding to human rights.

We won't find that any human alive in Honor's time has personal memories of Stephanie because Weber tells us in "Mission of Honor: Honor Harrington, Book 12," a book in the Honorverse main series, that the first generation of the "Prolong" technology which allows Honor and many characters of her generation to expect a vastly extended lifespan, first became available about a hundred years before that book - e.g. three hundred years after the birth of Stephanie Harrington.

However, treecats can and do share memories, and one of the most important groups in their society are "Memory Singers" who act as a living library of important memories, some of which can be very old. Nimitz's wife Samantha, who is bonded to Honor Harrington's husband Hamish Alexander, is a memory singer.

In the original draft of this review, posted immediately after the publication of "A beautiful friendship," I wrote that as treecats will learn to talk to humans through sign language in Honor's time, I wasn't taking any bets against the possibility that in one of the future Honor Harrington books Samantha would be able to tell Honor of the treecats' memories of her long-dead relative Death Fang's Bane.

I was nearly right: in the very next main series book A Rising Thunder (Honor Harrington) which came out in March 2012, Samantha introduces Honor to "Sorrow Singer," a treecat memory singer who does indeed hold such a memory of Stephanie Harrington and can tell Honor, "You would have liked her. She was much like you in many ways."

The focus of this book is on how an intelligent but non-technological species like the treecats might react to the arrival of human colonists on their world, and on the good and evil ways that a society of human colonists might react to the discovery that the planet where they have been building a home for several generations is home to a native intelligent species.

There are no space battles in "A Beautiful Friendship." Like Honor's own parents and most of their family, Stephanie's parents are medical professionals. The original Republic of Haven, if it exists at all yet, has not decayed to become the corrupt and totalitarian "People's Republic of Haven" and so the military threat posed by the "Peeps" lies many years in the future.

However, the vast and ruthless conspiracy which will eventually become known as the Mesan Alignment does already exist, and there are signs that it may take an interest in the treecats ...

If you like the treecats in David Weber's other books you should read this even if you already have the short story. It's enjoyable and very interesting as long as you are not among that part of Weber's fanbase who read him solely for the battles.

If anyone reading this is a big fan of military or naval science fiction, and in the unlikely event that such a person has somehow managed to avoid reading any of the Honor Harrington books, click on the following link to the first book in Honor's story, "On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington)," and you are unlikely to be disappointed.
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on 4 July 2015
Good teen read from the Weber of the Honourverse. For the Honourverse addict a too easy read, almost a stroll through nostalgia. But a very easy book and good entertainment, and certainly no waste of time.

I'd hate to spoil the plot but enough heroics, action, plot and intrigue to keep the attention even of the most mature Weber fan.

Loved it, recommended
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on 1 July 2016
If you like the tree cats, this origins story is worth the read.

Unfortunately no space opera with Galaxy wide battles, just a good mystery and story based on Sphinx

Nice to know the origin story behind mankind's discovery of the tree cats
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A spin off from the popular 'Honor Harrington' series of military science fiction novels, this is the first in a new series. Aimed at younger readers.

Ideal reading age would be ten and up. But it is good enough to be enjoyed by older readers as well.

This series isn't military science fiction. More rite of passage adventure, and it does hark back somewhat to the style that writers like Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein used back in their day when they produced books aimed at a younger audience. The kind of thing that does act as a good entry level to the genre.

This book runs for three hundred and fifty two pages, and is divided into two parts. The second longer than the first. It's further divided into twenty nine chapters.

It is the kind of series book that feels self contained but contains enough room for further adventures by the end.

And you don't need to have read any of the Honor Harrington novels to read this.

Set on the planet of Sphinx, which is very much a frontier world, the main character is twelve year old Stephanie Harrington. A very smart girl who doesn't quite fit in with other kids because they can't keep up with her, she's frustrated by having had to move to this world, a place where winters can last for a fair while. And where she can't explore on her own because dangerous beasts known as Hexapumas can be found in the woods.

Meantime, something else seems to be stealing celery from local farms.

That would be another native species. A feline like one, who are highly intelligent, communicate via telepathy, and have a taste for a certain human crop. One of their species, called Climbs Quickly, is observing humans.

A close encounter between the two leads to a first contact like no other...

The first part of this 'a Beatiful friendship' will be familiar to those who have read the Honor series because it is a reprint of a novella published in one of the writers short story collections. But it is a very good story, so it's a pleasure to read it again.

Where it works so well is showing what communication is like when two people can't speak the same language. Even though both parties are perfectly intelligent, they will seem so very alien to the other. And yet they will often share the same instincts.

In a similar vein, Stephanie and her parents can't always communicate either, so it will strike a chord with many of the target age group.

The second part is original material but does reference a short story called 'the stray' also to be found in another of the writers collections. There is enough material about this as it goes on to mean that you don't need to have read it in order to get into this, so don't be worried if it seems confusing at first. This part deals what happens after first contact, as Stephanie has a lot to contend with and has to decide who to trust. It does seem to zip along without any firm direction but it's all convincing and very readable, so it's enjoyable enough. It then does throw in a situation to deal with, and this leads to a good finale in the last few chapters.

Good prose. An amiable pair of main characters who will strike a chord with many. It's good science fiction. Whether you're ten or much older.

There's a glossary of terms from the book at the end, and a sample few pages from the next book in the series after that.
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on 24 June 2013
I enjoyed this book even though I had read the first part of it in a complication book before, it fleshed out the cat and child and went into more of the later time line. Would be nice if there is another book after this one. But it should say on the blurb of the book that the first part has been published before because when I started reading I initially thought I had had it under another title. If you like the Honour series it is a good read
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on 24 October 2011
David Weber's Star Kingdom world is enthralling. Even with this first book in a sub-series aimed at an audience slightly younger than myself, I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to continue to explore the first treecat bonds in further books and know that Weber won't be giving us deja vu of Honor's story.
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on 1 December 2012
It was an enjoyable read. It was a hard one to put down. Can't wait til the next ones is out in Kindle.
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on 12 October 2011
This new YA series by David Weber builds on one of my favorite short stories with the same name by David Weber. The book is out now but I am making this review based on the ARC so things might differ in details.

This takes place some three hundred years before the Honor stories. It is kind of an origin story in that it portrays how the Harrington family settled on Sphinx and how young Stephanie meets and befriend one of the secretly sentient treecats there. Stephanie's story starts like any ordinary teenage story with issues of parental control and resentment for her parents for dragging her off to the boonies.

It switches pov between humans and treecats mainly Stephanie and Climbs Quickly. It has the famous Celery thieves' episode I loved in the short story. It is over all an enjoyable read but I have some issues. Sometimes the story just stops abruptly. Like when scott was about to tell how the cats where communicating with him. It didn't disturb much since I have read that short story. But there is also a jump in the story from the first meeting to scott and his story, I felt the narration lacked a segue there. Giving me the feeling it is just a couple of short stories stitched together with the bare minimum of an overall storyline. This disappointed me.

I am also a bit disappointed that the inner life of Stephanie doesn't come out and play.

I am a great fan of David Weber and his works and it pains me that I found A Beautiful Friendship delightful in parts but lacking in the whole. Maybe Jane Lindskold will make better work with the sequels.
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on 4 October 2013
The background of how humans and Treecats relationship started and grew in the early years. My 10 year old loved this and we will be getting the other books in the series.
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