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Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Storm From the Shadows/Mission of Honor" by David Weber (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

The Honorverse Wikipedia
Order Storm from the Shadows HERE
Order Mission of Honor HERE
Read FBC's An Invitation to David Weber's Honorverse
Read FBC Review of At All Costs
Read FBC Interview with David Weber

INTRODUCTION: As I mentioned in the Invitation to the Honorverse post, the structure of the series was relatively straightforward until the 10th book War of Honor with novel following novel in the main thread of the Havenite Wars. From the 11th novel Crown of Slaves - co-written with Eric Flint - the story acquired two secondary streams, the genetic slavery/Torch/Maya sector of that one and the Talbot Quadrant story of The Shadow of Saganami in addition to the main thread dealing with Haven.

At All Costs essentially ended the main story to date so the Talbot stream became the new main one in Storm from the Shadows and was continued in Mission of Honor, while we also dotted the i's and crossed the t's so to speak for the Havenite thread there.

So labeling Mission of Honor as the "next mainline" Honorverse novel after the superb At All Cost is misleading since in truth Mission of Honor is just the second half of the huge novel that starts with Storm from the Shadows. To make things even more complex, the combo SftS/MoH has a third novel that takes place simultaneously with them, Torch of Freedom that continues the Maya/Torch stream, but this last one while important in consequences for our story here is still a side show for now and can be read independently.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: Storm from the Shadows clocks at about 800 pages, though to be fair the first 2-300 or so are events from At All Costs seen from different POV's, while Mission of Honor stands at a "slim" just under 600 pages; Storm from the Shadows ends on two cliffhangers, including a huge one, both being resolved in Mission of Honor, but this one ends the storyline with a mini-cliffhanger similar to the smaller one in Storm, though the actual ending is definite and just awesome as we knew from the "snerker snippets" on Baen's Bar.

The cast is huge and features Honor herself mostly as a diplomat with a fleet at her back, her academy roommate and actual admiral in charge where missiles fly, Michelle Henke, all the main leaders, official or not, from Queen Elizabeth of Manticore, President Pritchart of Haven, to the bureaucratic quintet leading the Solarian League from behind the scenes and of course the leaders of the "storm from the shadows" themselves like Albrecht Detweiler and his six sons, our favorite star ship commanders like Commodore Terekhov and Admiral Overstegeen, their junior officers like Helen Zilwicky or Abigail Hearns, enemy operatives like Aldona Anisimovna, various Solarian officers and bureaucrats, diplomats, journalists...

Even our favorite "bad boys", the duo of operatives, Manticoran (ret.) Captain Anton Zilwicky and Havenite super agent Victor Cachat, whose adventures form the main thread of Torch of Freedom appear before and after the events of that novel.

Storm from the Shadows/Mission of Honor are both epic sf with largely military dimensions in a vast interstellar domain and they offer both a transition from the "first Honorverse" series of the Havenite wars to the "new Honorverse" that will turn all human settled space upside down and the definite conclusion of that first part.

ANALYSIS: Reading Storm from the Shadows separately, I enjoyed it a lot but I was a bit dissatisfied due to the cliffhangers at the end which are quite uncharacteristic of David Weber - so much so that the author felt the need to add a note explaining the structure of these three books including Torch of Freedom, all pretty much done when Storm was published though it took some 16 months for actual publication of all of them for obvious reasons of adequate spacing.

Reading Mission of Honor separately - and after all it was my top expected novel of 2010 so when the e-arc went up for sale I could not resist but dig into it immediately and stay until the next morning for the first pass through - and again I loved it a lot but I was a bit surprised how relatively straightforward it was at least as the big picture goes; battles in Talbot, diplomacy on Haven and of course Oyster Bay - which was the huge cliffhanger of Storm and whose name is self-explanatory by obvious allusion to 1941.

Also while Torch of Freedom had some extremely emotional moments almost on par with the ones in At All Costs, both the treacheries and the resulting massive deaths in Storm from the Shadows and the huge devastation and megadeaths that Oyster Bay inflicted are less emotional since only (lots of) secondary characters die as opposed to the main ones in the above mentioned novels.

However reading Storm from the Shadows/Mission of Honor together and keeping the events from Torch of Freedom in mind was a different experience since in this case the whole is considerably superior to its component parts. The magic touch of David Weber is in clear view as the huge tapestry of events in these 1400 pages unfolds and things just slot naturally into place, which considering the scale of events and the huge number of characters is a tremendous achievement.

There are so many superb touches of which of course the first obvious ones are the two "night visits" that bracket Mission of Honor, but also Aldona's departure from New Tuscany in her yacht on a Manticoran's composer music accompaniment, Admiral Khumalo's first meeting with Captain Terekhov at Monica, the conversations between the two Solarian intelligence officers that start having a clue about what's what, the names of the "public leaders" of the super villains (of course there is a Clinton, king here as opposed to Grand Inquisitor in Safehold, but there are others that were unexpected and quite funny as it happens), the fate of Joe Buckley...

So overall Storm from the Shadows/Mission of Honor (together they are an A++, separately each is an A+) achieve their dual objective in grand style. They formally end the first Honorverse series and start the second one on a pretty dark note, while providing everything I came to expect from the author - space battles, intrigue, diplomacy, expansion of the technological universe of the series, great lines and unforgettable scenes, as well as superb characters both on the "good guys" side, but also on the "villains" side too. From now on we are really in uncharted territory - except for the little cliffhanger whose denouement will start the next novel in the series - and I cannot wait for the next novel.



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