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Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Shadow of Freedom" by David Weber (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

 

Official David Weber Site/Forums
The Honorverse Wikipedia
Order Shadow of Freedom HERE
Read Chapters 1-9 from Shadow of Freedom HERE
Read FBC's An Invitation to David Weber's Honorverse
Read FBC Review of At All Costs
Read FBC Review of Storm from the Shadow and Mission of Honor

Read FBC Review of A Rising Thunder
Read FBC Interview with David Weber



"Wrong number? There are two sides to any quarrel . . . unless there are more.

Michelle Henke, Queen Elizabeth of Manticore's first cousin, Honor Harrington's best friend, and the commanding officer of Manticore's Tenth Fleet, is just a bit surprised when a messenger arrives from the Mobius System to inform her that the Mobius Liberation Front is prepared to rise in rebellion against the hated regime President Svein Lombroso. She can understand why anyone would want to rebel against someone like Lombroso, but why tell her about it? After all, she has problems of her own, like the minor matter of a life-or-death war against the Solarian League.

Michelle has just handed the "invincible" Solarian League Navy the most humiliating, one-sided defeat in its entire almost thousand-year history in defense of the people of the Star Empire's Talbott Quadrant. But the League is the most powerful star nation in the history of humanity. Its navy is going to be back – and this time with thousands of superdreadnoughts. 

........

She knows that . . . and she doesn't care.
No one is going to send thousands of patriots to their deaths, trusting in Manticoran help that will never come.
Not on Mike Henke's watch."


For a short discussion of the series' structure up to book 16, Mission of Honor, see my Invitation to the Honorverse post linked also above, while I discussed book 17, A Rising Thunder HERE.

Billed as "#18 in the multiply-bestselling Honor Harrington series" and with the blurb above, Shadow of Freedom follows the recent Honorverse tradition of separating multiple action theaters into a few books taking place in roughly the same timeline and containing fragments and even full chapters from previous novels, both for reference and for additional perspective. 

So to a large extent the place of this book in the series tapestry will not be seen until future installments put what happens here in perspective and I would argue that one's reaction to it depends partly on how one feels about this way of writing the series - while I had some reservations in the beginning when the books were either too disconnected (see Crown of Slaves and The Shadow of Saganami) or too repeating (see Storm from the Shadows first 200 hundred pages), I think that with Shadow of Freedom, David Weber has started doing the multiple books/same timeline stuff really well, though of course one occasionally would love a mammoth 1000 page novel to cover all events in a single volume.

The other qualifier about Shadow of Freedom - which applies to any series in which the same timeline is split into several books - is how much one likes the action and characters from this particular split. As I tend to really like the Talbot Sector part, while for example not particularly caring for the Zilwicky/Cachat stuff as that tends too much towards superhero pulp, Shadow of Freedom was a true pleasure to read end to end in one sitting and I reread it a few times since I got the earc last fall as noted in this post.

Below are a few specifics without (hopefully) any spoilers:

Length, yes very short; I discount David Weber's books to about 2/3 size due to repetitions and the info dumps - here there is a Detweiler chapter and other stuff that is c/p from earlier work - so the book at about 420 pages felt like an under 300 page one, but those ~300 pages were really, really good, better than 4-500 pages from almost anyone else.

Lots of new beginnings and new characters which I actually like; gives one the idea of both how big the Solarian League and its "protectorates" are and why the series will last another 10 novels or more and this is again a positive.

Lots of great moments both funny and sad; the desperate resistance movements and the "now we have stopped trying to get you to see reason and it's five minutes to abandon your ships or die" were highlights, but the most I enjoyed the last part with the two "rats" and their escape attempt(s) and the "Of course, at the moment I haven’t found anything that wasn’t your fault, but I’m sure if we keep looking long enough we’ll find someone else who screwed up almost as egregiously as you guys" which is another Weberian quote for the ages. After reading this last part of the novel, I would suggest re-reading chapter 5 of The Shadow of Saganami and enjoying it even more!

Another great quote was when they were asking Helen (Zilwicky) about the Mesan allegation that her father blew up Green Pines with a nuke - Shadow of Freedom starts after the Crandall hammering, goes through Yawata, the revelations, Filareta and Beowulf and ends at a great tbc point somewhere around the end of A Rising Thunder - and after giving the usual reasons why she does not believe it, she ends with the "if he was in a city-killing mode..., trust me, the hole would’ve been a hell of a lot deeper!”

Regarding the ending, I actually have a belief that it signifies quite dramatic developments soon as such would really amplify its already pretty emotional content.
Overall I found Shadow of Freedom an excellent series installment that will become even better when the next few books are released and it will be one of my top 25 novels of 2013.

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