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EoH_6It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I still mean to get the whole series reviewed so it’s time I got around to another one. As with prior reviews in the series, in each review I’ll include spoilers for previous books or stories but not spoil the ending of the current one. (Too much, anyway.)

Remember that if you should want to read this or other books in the series based on my reviews, all the books up through Mission of Honor are available as free e-books via the Fifth Imperium Baen CD site, from the Mission of Honor CD.

It’s also worth noting that the most recent e-book in the series, Fire Season (a young-adult sequel to the first Stephanie Harrington novel, A Beautiful Friendship), just became available as an EARC via BaenEbooks. It looks interesting, though I’ll likely be waiting ‘til it hits Webscriptions proper to buy and review it.

Previously:

  1. Introduction
  2. Treecat Trilogy
  3. A Beautiful Friendship
  4. Young Honor and Elizabeth
  5. Prince Michael rescues and Honor dances
  6. On Basilisk Station
  7. The Honor of the Queen
  8. The Short Victorious War
  9. Irresponsible captain, itinerant noble
  10. Field of Dishonor
  11. Flag in Exile
  12. Honor Among Enemies
  13. Of treecats and grapeshot
  14. In Enemy Hands

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

On Grayson and Manticore, Honor’s friends and loved ones are rocked by video footage of Honor Harrington’s execution by hanging. (As they are meant to be—the Havenite propaganda minister takes a great deal of pride in the special-effects job. They “know” Harrington is dead, blown up in their attempt to escape after the destruction of the Tepes, so they might as well capitalize on it.)

Meanwhile, Hamish Alexander, Lord White Haven, angsts about Honor’s death and grumbles about the lack of availability of ships for his Eighth Fleet, which is supposed to take the battle back to the Peeps but doesn’t have the firepower. Manticore just doesn’t have any ships to spare because too much of the fleet has gone too long without repair and refitting. But not all is bleak: Captain Alice Truman is spearheading the testing and development of an entirely new weapon for Manticore’s navy.

And on Haven, ambitious Admiral-turned-Secretary-of-War Esther McQueen, given the reins of the Havenite navy at last, makes plans for a new offensive to turn the tide of the war in Haven’s favor—and possibly other plans for her own private little coup d’etat.

And elsewhere, the pretty-obviously-not-dead-after-all Honor Harrington and her band of Manticoran (and one Havenite) escapees are working on an ambitious plan to use their stolen Peep combat shuttles to knock out the State Security base on the prison planet Hell so they can send a ship for help from home. Will they manage to pull it off? (That was a rhetorical question.)

Cover art complaint department: The spaceships depicted still don’t look anything like the ones Weber describes. The artist really doesn’t have that much of an excuse here, either—there’s a very detailed schematic of one in an appendix to the book! Also, amusing note: look at the lengths he goes to to hide Honor’s (missing) left arm and (burned out cybernetic) left eye.

As I said at the end of my last review, Echoes of Honor is one of my favorite books in the Honor Harrington series—or at least half of it is. This is because Echoes of Honor is effectively not really one novel, but two separate and largely unrelated ones, split up into sections and shuffled together like alternating sandwich toppings.

One of these novels, made up of the odd-numbered sections, covers the Grayson, Manticoran, and Havenite side of things: how to deal with succession for the Harrington Steading, the testing of new weapons, and McQueen’s bold new naval campaign, respectively. The other, in the even-numbered sections, concerns Honor and company’s plot to break out of Hades, rescue their fellow prisoners, and return home.

With one minor exception, none of the events in either of the books ever actually affects the others. As that’s the case, it seems to me there really isn’t any good reason for their being split up and shuffled together like this. All it really does is annoy you when, just as one story’s getting good, you’re shuffled off to the other again. (Imagine if the books of Lord of the Rings focusing on the two different parties had been cut and shuffled together every few chapters like that.)

Weber does get better about this later on, when he breaks off a separate storyline into its own separate branch of novels. And to be fair, I suppose there wasn’t really any other good way of covering events in all places simultaneously than putting them both together in the same volume—it would be silly to publish two much-shorter novels separately. But still, there isn’t really any good reason you can’t just read the Prologue, then Books 1, 3, and 5, then Books 2, 4, and 6, then the Epilogue, to get all of both stories in order—nothing in books 1, 3, and 5 will spoil anything in 2, 4, and 6, and that way they don’t interrupt each other.

And this is what I mean by half of the book being my favorite. I really love the “evens” half, involving Honor’s crew’s efforts to bootstrap themselves up from shipwrecked crew in assault shuttles to rulers of the prison to flying themselves home. I’ve always loved both shipwreck and prison break stories, and this combines the two elements into one. It’s also the more compelling of the two stories, perhaps because it focuses only on Honor (and, briefly, some Peeps she encounters), letting it tell a single, unified story. The other section is all right, but suffers from having to represent every other viewpoint: Manticoran, Grayson, Captain Truman’s crew, Javier Giscard’s crew, and so on. It’s more scattered.

Nonetheless, it does introduce a few interesting characters. We meet Andrea Jaruwalski, and learn the final fate of Elvis Santino, bane of Honor’s existence from her middie cruise. We meet Oliver Diamato, who also becomes important later on.

And various members of the cast experience their own growth and changes in both storylines. Hapless Peep Commander Warner Caslet must make a final decision where his loyalties lie. Javier Giscard and Eloise Pritchart must carry on their deception.

Largely missing are some of the other characters we met in previous books: Thomas Theisman, Rob Pierre, Oscar St. Just. We’ll see them again, soon, though. This is sort of the penultimate book in the early arc, because after the next novel in the series a whole lot is going to change.

And Honor continues to set the standard for Determinator-tough characters, not letting the loss of her left arm at the end of the last book slow her down to much. This part of the book was actually a little poignant for me, given that since I reviewed that book, my Mom lost her own right arm in an accident. Unlike in the Honorverse, there’s no nifty mentally-controlled cybernetic replacement available for her.

Nonetheless, a kind of funny thing is that watching my Mom adapt to life without one arm has actually made Honor’s adaptation seem less hard to believe. My Mom is getting on without her arm pretty well, just as Honor did, in this book.

Some might feel that Honor’s little escape operation is a bit over the top, the sort of action-heroish stuff that is generally hard to believe. But I think Weber does a good job of showing how StateSec’s complacence and incompetence makes it possible, and as I said before it’s just plain fun to read it happen.

As I said in the last review, a lot of people peg this timeframe as the start of the “decline” of the series. Certainly this book is a lot more political, at least in the non-Hell section. And there is somewhat less fleet on fleet action than usual. But what there is here is pretty good. Even the “soap opera” begun in In Enemy Hands with Honor and Hamish’s “love at first psi” is largely absent here, save for a couple of times when White Haven goes into multi-page angst-fests over Honor. He is convinced (rightly) that Honor somehow detected his sudden infatuation with her and so ran back to duty just in time to get captured and killed. (Meanwhile, Honor hardly thinks about White Haven at all. Too busy planning the escape, I expect.)

And finally, though I won’t spoil it, I will say that I think this book has one of the best endings of any book in the entire Honorverse series, and I usually can’t read it without immediately diving right into the beginning of Ashes of Victory to see what happens next.

In my next review, I’ll cover three short stories that take place concurrently to this book and Ashes of Victory, before moving on to that novel itself. Ashes of Victory is where everything really changes.

 
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