BOOK REVIEW: The Short Victorious War, by David Weber

-This review is likely to contain spoilers for previous books in the Honorverse. Click here to find an index of reviews for those books-

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Publisher: Baen

Series: Honor Harrington (#3)

Genre: Space Opera/Military SF

Pages: 360

Publication Date: 1994

Verdict: 5/5

 

Desperate to fill their empty coffers, the People’s Republic of Haven launch a surprise attack against the Star Kingdom of Manticore. What they forget, is that it is defended by Honor Harrington, a woman who does not take kindly to acts of aggression . . .

 

Three books in, and the Honor Harrington series delivers its best instalment yet. Up until now, the action has been fairly concentrated. A minor skirmish in On Basilisk Station, a proxy war in The Honor of the Queen. This time around, we’re in the big leagues. Haven is no longer interested in minor strikes, this attack is meant to bring Manticore to its knees It’s no great spoiler that they won’t succeed this early in the series, but boy do they come close.

Though the book is as short as Haven’s desired war, there’s a lot going on within. First of all there is the continuing growth of Honor Harrington herself as she recovers from the wounds she suffered on grayson, and comes to terms with her increased bond with nimitz the tree-cat. Nimitz himself still feels like he’s wandered in from another book entirely, but as the series goes on his presence becomes less obtrusive. While he’s still my least favourite part of the Honorverse, I guess I’m getting used to having him around, much like Honor’s crew.

As well as her personal growth as an individual, as she continues to grapple with the realities of command, we see Honor developing relationships with those around her. She can still be as cold and isolated as she was in On Basilisk Station, but now there’s a softer edge to her. She has friends now, and even the beginnings of a romantic partnership. Of course, all this is sent into upheaval by the arrival of an old enemy in the later stages of the book. The shadow of Pavel Young looms large indeed.

This is all well and good, I hear you say. But what about the explosions and space battles? Don’t worry, Weber’s got you covered. Now that a lot of the worldbuilding has been established, Weber can safely start upsetting the status quo of his world. There are two main threads to the action, the first of which is of course the invasion itself. For most of the book we only get snippets of the action. A scene here and there, politicians and admirals reading each other lists of systems attacked. But then we get the big battle between Honor’s forces and those of the Havenites. It’s clear by this point that Weber likes to have his protagonist outmanned and outgunned, but it’s a formula that is yet to grow stale. As dozens of warships clash, there is a lot of head-hopping, showing us the battle through the eyes of both sides. There are times when this can get a little confusing, but I think that’s sort of the point. Battles are chaotic, and rarely clear-cut affairs.

The second thread is the internal politics of Haven itself, and an attempted rebellion in that polity. I won’t say if it’s a success or not, but suffice it to say that this thread seems to be building up for something in later books. There are a lot of new names to learn in this strand, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of them throughout the series.

 

After a slightly slow buildup, the Honorverse is now living up to its reputation. With so many more volumes to go, I hope this upward trajectory continues.

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