The next three prequel stories move into the “present-day” era of the Honor Harrington setting. In the “Post Diaspora” calendar of the Honorverse setting, they range from 1880 to 1890. The first novel, On Basilisk Station, is set in 1900.
There is nothing in particular about these stories that would necessitate reading them before the novels, but nothing in them really spoils the novel story either. A few events brought up in later books are alluded to here, but they’re also covered in those later books so readers will be fine either way.
- "Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington" by David Weber (Changer of Worlds anthology)
- "Queen’s Gambit" by Jane Lindskold (Worlds of Honor anthology)
- "The Hard Way Home" by David Weber (Worlds of Honor anthology)
The first and third of these stories feature the young Honor Harrington, presenting the only glimpses (thus far) of her early career. Between them is a story about Manticore’s royal family, depicting the death of King Roger and the ascension to the throne of the young Queen Elizabeth.
The Honor Harrington series is acknowledged to be inspired by C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, and the title of the novella “Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington” alludes to the first (chronologically) Hornblower novel, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. The story follows the young Honor Harrington on her first cruise out of the academy as a midshipman, the lowest rank of commissioned officer.
Honor’s cruise does not go smoothly at first, as she encounters another of those irredeemably evil/incompetent villains in the person of Elvis Santino. Like so many of these villains, Santino is a member of Manticore’s nobility and a friend of another noble named Pavel Young.
Young’s embarrassment by Honor in an incident at the academy and connections in Manticore’s “old boy” network set up a lot of trouble for her down the road—including the sadistic Santino’s abuse of the midshipmen he’s assigned to train. But Honor eventually manages to overcome this adversity, and as might be expected from the protagonist, eventually plays an important role in saving the ship.
Three years later, “Queen’s Gambit” takes place. King Roger dies in a suspicious grav-ski accident, and his daughter Elizabeth asks her fiancée, Justin Zyrr, to investigate. This story provides background into Queen Elizabeth’s temper, and her implacable hatred of Haven. It also introduces Prince Michael, who plays a bigger role in the next stories I’ll review, and Honor’s friend Michelle Henke.
I actually find one of the minor characters from this story rather compelling: Jean Marrou, a blind woman who was one of the members of the conspiracy to kill the king. She uses a pocket computer with optical recognition technology—a descendent of the type of device I’ve covered for TeleRead here and here—to make up for her handicap. Unlike other members of the conspiracy, she at least has some form of conscience. I often wonder what her final fate turned out to be after the story ended.
The third story picks up Honor’s career ten years after her middy cruise. She is a Lieutenant Commander taking part in trials of a new pinnace—a type of aerospace fighter/transport craft—and putting up with another idiot noble superior officer. But she is actually not the main character of this story, which focuses on young Susan Hibson (another character who plays a role in the novels).
Hibson is a fan of Manticore’s marines, and wants to join when she comes of age. But first she has to survive being buried alive by an unexpected avalanche that strikes the ski resort where she and her brother Ranjit are vacationing. And Honor has to deal with her commander’s incompetence potentially costing lives.
The young Honor is an engaging character, though there is not as much room to go fully into her character in these shorter works. But that will come soon enough. She does stack up an impressive set of heroic deeds even in these early works, but that’s only to be expected for the hero of the story.
These stories come from the second and third story collections, written fairly early on in the series, and cover events that had already been conceived by the time the novels were written. As a result, they fit in pretty well with the established continuity. The same can’t quite be said for the stories that I’ll cover in my next review.