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Third in the Stephanie Harrington prequel Honorverse series,
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This review is from: Treecat Wars (Honor Harrington - Star Kingdom Book 3) (Kindle Edition)
"Treecat Wars" is the third book in the "Star Kingdom" series set in the Universe of David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series but some four hundred years earlier. These stories are particularly aimed at young adults but can be read by older readers. They are not nearly as vast or sophisticated as the "Honorverse" books but are entertaining and well written.
This book is set shortly after "Fire Season (Star Kingdom)" in which Stephanie Harrington, who is a direct ancestor of Honor Harrington and had been the first human to be adopted by a Sphinx treecat, had to deal with teenage rivalries, forest fires, and a bunch of xenobiologists.
Stephanie was originally introduced in "A Beautiful Friendship (Star Kingdom (Quality))" which describes how Stephanie Harrington, a twelve-year-old girl from the first generation of Honor Harrington's family to move to the Manticore system, was adopted by the treecat who she named "Lionheart." This was originally written as a short story which was first published in the collection "More Than Honor," can also be found in the more recent anthology "Worlds Of Weber" and was then extended to a novel.
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 read emotions but not 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."
"A Beautiful Friendship" told the story of the first such bonding, of how Stephanie came to be known as "Death Fang's Bane" among the treecats, and began a theme which continues throughout the series about the struggle to have treecats recognised as an intelligent species with legal rights corresponding to human rights. No 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 did not become available until about a hundred years before that book. E.g. some 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 has adopted Honor Harrington's husband Hamish Alexander, is a memory singer. And in A Rising Thunder (Honor Harrington) 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."
A running joke in this book is to emphasise the similarity between Honor and her ancestor by having more than one of Stephanie's friends think that if she hadn't been determined to make a career as a Sphinx ranger Stephanie would have made an excellent battle fleet commander. Since many of those who read the "Star Kingdom" series will probably have first encountered this Universe through books about Stephanie's upmpteen-greats-granddaughter, who will indeed be a great fleet commander, the significance will not be lost on them, though the joke is perhaps funnier the first time than when repeated. There is one main difference between the two heroines: Honor is taller than most men while Stephanie is petite.
Like the first two books in the prequel series, a major 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.
Sphinx's forest ecology is dependent on occasional natural forest fires, although these can threaten treecat clans and human homes alike. Because careless human activity can make this risk worse, the ranger service in which Stephanie is an apprentice is very concerned to control forest fires during the planet's "fire season." The previous eponymous book featured a particularly bad fire season. In this book we are introduced to two new treecat clans, both of which had been affected by those fires: one which had been seriously harmed by those fires, and one which had been hit even worse and pushed to the brink of extinction.
Despite the title there are no space battles in "Treecat wars" any more than there were in "A Beautiful Friendship" or "Fire Season." 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 did already exist in Stephanie's time, and we know that that at some stage prior to Honor's time the Mesans had taken an interest in treecats, which may affect Stephanie and Lionheart - or may even already have done so.
However, the greedy and corrupt wing of the Manticoran aristocracy - forerunners of the kind of people who formed the "High Ridge" government if you have read the Honorverse books - are capable of causing a lot of trouble all on their own. People who do not all wish the treecats well have plans for Stephanie and Lionheart. However, just as in later centuries not all the powerful people in Manticoran society are evil. The challenge will be to sort the good from the evil and the merely misguided ...
If you like the treecats in David Weber's other books you should read this. It's enjoyable and interesting as long as you are not among that part of Weber's fanbase who read him solely for the space battles.
If the event, however unlikely, that anyone reading this is a big fan of military or naval science fiction who 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.