1. Introduction
  2. Treecat Trilogy
  3. Young Honor and Elizabeth
  4. Prince Michael rescues and Honor dances
  5. On Basilisk Station
  6. The Honor of the Queen
  7. The Short Victorious War
  8. Irresponsible captain, itinerant noble
  9. Field of Dishonor

Continuing my review of Honor Harrington stories and novels in chronological order:

For this book, we actually jump back to the beginning of the chronology, because this novel is an expanded version of the novella of the same name, which I reviewed as part of the “Treecat Trilogy”. In fact, it also serves as a partial sequel to the second story in that group, “The Stray”, as well. Unlike most books in the Honor Harrington series, A Beautiful Friendship is not free to read—yet. I expect it will be bundled on the CD that will probably accompany A Rising Thunder next year.

The first third or so of the novel is a slightly expanded version of the novella. It is mostly the same, but has a few infodumps added—mostly in the form of Stephanie’s or the treecat Climbs Quickly’s internal monologues.

The second part picks up where that story left off, with Stephanie Harrington and her family fighting for treecats to be accorded the respect they deserve as the autochthonous sentient race of Sphinx. The problem is that Sphinx developing sentient inhabitants would cause a great deal of political trouble, particularly to land speculators whose options would suddenly become worthless.

This second part also incorporates Dr. Scott MacDallan and the other main characters from “The Stray”, as Stephanie seeks them out in the hope that they might prove allies in her quest for treecat recognition. In the meantime, she has to deal with well-meaning anthropologists who might potentially harm treecats’ cause in the name of studying them—and with one individual who turns out not to be so well-meaning after all.

The story is kind of what we’ve come to expect from Honorverse stories: heroic character must contend with well-meaning but naïve supporters, outright idiots, and a villain with nastier motivations. People who find the Honor Harrington books a bit repetitive in that regard will probably find this one about the same, but those who enjoy the formula in general will enjoy it here too. There’s a rather blatant tuckerization in the latter half of the book that I find just a wee bit too twee, but Weber will be Weber.

The book’s biggest problem has to do with “The Stray”. The story is heavily referenced, and its events are of direct consequence to what happens in the last part of the novel. The fact that the story itself is not actually there can leave new readers scratching their heads and wondering how they missed something. Ideally the story should have been reprinted within the book between the first and second parts, but since it was written by another author that would undoubtedly have led to complications.

With that being said, I’m not so sure how well the story works as a jumping-on point for new readers. It will be a treat for existing Honorverse fans who might have wondered what happened to the characters in “A Beautiful Friendship” and “The Stray”, but I’d suggest even those fans might want to revisit the free-to-read “The Stray” in between the two parts of the book.

A Beautiful Friendship is ostensibly a young-adult novel, but it’s one of those novels that gains the label simply because its protagonist is a teenager. There’s nothing about it that should turn off any adults, especially any adult Honorverse fans.

Perhaps the worst thing about the story is that we know that, no matter what Stephanie and friends do, treecats won’t get the true respect she wants for them until “What Price Dreams?” 170 years later, well after Stephanie is dead. I would rather like to see a novel expanding that story.

Coming Up: Getting back to the chronological reviews with Flag in Exile.