- Treecat Trilogy
- Young Honor and Elizabeth
- Prince Michael rescues and Honor dances
- On Basilisk Station
Continuing my review of Honor Harrington stories and novels in chronological order:
- The Honor of the Queen by David Weber
The second novel in the Honor Harrington trilogy commences a tradition of giving every alternate Honor Harrington book a title that puns on the name of its protagonist. Where the first book set the stage, the second one kicks off events that will have repercussions felt throughout the entire rest of the series. This book sees the introduction of the yin-yang of fundamentalist religious states, Grayson and Masada, and represents Honor’s first serious test of character.
Honor is still a very young character in this book—odd as it is to say given that she’s 44 years old at the time the story takes place. But thanks to Prolong, a medical technology that allows its recipients to live for several hundred years, her physical age is considerably lower, and her relative inexperience contributes to this perception as well.
As the story opens, Honor is assigned to escort a diplomatic mission led by her mentor, Admiral Courvosier, to the Yeltsin star system for diplomatic talks with the planet Grayson. Since Grayson lies between Manticore and Haven, Manticore feels an alliance could be desirable—if the strongly-anti-feminist world of Grayson can come to terms with allying with a nation ruled by a woman.
Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of Haven has been talking with Grayson’s enemy Masada, a world peopled by the losers in a religious civil war several hundred years back. Haven has sent Masada some ships, and soldiers to crew them, and with their help Masada sees an opportunity to pay Grayson back for its long exile—and Haven sees an opportunity to move in after that and take over the system for itself. Haven’s economic system is such that it must continually keep conquering new planets in order to maintain its welfare-state citizens in the standard of living to which they are accustomed.
And into this mix ride not one but two female captains—Honor is joined by Captain Alice Truman, who will also figure prominently into future books in the series. Grayson is, needless to say, not thrilled. In fact, relations between the female captains and the planet are so bad that Honor finally decides to remove them from the equation by escorting a convoy to a nearby star system and back. It’s not her fault that disaster strikes while she’s gone—but she’ll probably think it is for some time to come.
This story sees Honor make her first big mistake, and is perhaps the first proof t hat Honor isn’t quite as perfect as some detractors claim she is after all. It’s an error that anyone could make especially under the sort of pressure she is facing at the time, and dealing with the aftermath turns her into a stronger character. And just as important is an incident where Honor is pushed entirely too far, and learns something about herself she would perhaps just as soon have left unknown.
And she’s not the only strong character. The book sees the introduction to a whole host of remarkable characters, both on the Grayson side and the Haven. We meet Protector Benjamin, Howard Clinkscales, and a number of others who will become important as time goes by. And we also encounter Thomas Theisman and Alfredo Yu for the first time. And it also presents the first face-to-face meeting between Honor Harrington and Hamish Alexander. The stage is still being set for what comes later, and on these foundations a great epic is built.
Without going into detail about the ending, this book shows that Weber is not afraid at all to mix things up over the course of the series. Honor undergoes a considerable change in her status as a result of her actions, though she has no idea how much that’s going to end up affecting her down the road.
This book also offers one of the clearest demonstrations of political ambivalence to be found in the series. On one hand, we have two different sets of conservative/fundamentalist stereotypes: the Old-Testament-only polygamous wife-dominating Masadans, and the considerably more moderate (but still polygamous) Graysons. On the other hand, we have Reginald Houseman, a strawman political if ever there was one—one of those fuzzy-thinking liberals who is absolutely certain that there is no problem in the galaxy that can’t be solved by just having both sides sit down and talk to each other. Even both sides of a centuries-long civil war that almost ended in planetary genocide. Not surprising that, with a few notable exceptions, most of the “good guys” on Manticore come from middle-of-the-road Centrist or Crown Loyalist political parties, and most of the “bad guys” come from Conservative or Liberal extremes.
And, of course, the space battles are exciting. Once again, Honor is outgunned, but she and her crew (many of whom return from On Basilisk Station) manage to get the job done—though at a cost she will always feel is too high.
It’s no secret that I like this series, but I’m finding I like it even more the more I reread it. Before starting my reread, all I really remembered was the annoying parts—the parts where Honor’s life dissolves into one huge puddle of angst. But the more I read, the more it comes back to me that there were enough good parts as well to make the whole thing well worth reading. This book is no exception.
My next Honor Harrington review will cover The Short Victorious War.