BOOK REVIEW: Field of Dishonor, by David Weber

-Spoilers abound for previous books in the Honorverse. Click here for a full index of reviews-

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Publisher: Baen

Series: Honor Harrington (#4)

Genre: Space Opera/Military SF

Pages: 373

Publication Date: 1994

Verdict: 5/5

War is coming to Manticore, but that is no reason for the politicians to set aside their own squabbles. Not for the first time, Honor Harrington finds herself drawn in to the scheming against her will. But this time, she may just have been pushed too far…

Field of Dishonor picks up right where The Short Victorious War left off. Honor is returning home in triumph, and the scheming, skeevy and all round sinister Pavel Young is awaiting court martial for his latest act of cowardice. But while he has no friends in the navy, Young  has enough political influence to escape a death sentence. Seething from the dishonour brought on his name, he sets in motion a ruthless plan to destroy Honor and all she holds dear.

In this fourth instalment of the Honor Harrington series, Weber takes a step back from the battlefield to look at the civilian side of life. While the People’s Republic of Haven have started a conflict with Manticore, the Star Kingdom is yet to formally declare war on their aggressive neighbour. The political shenanigans surrounding the signing of this declaration form the bulk of the novel, and Honor herself is almost relegated to side character status for the first half.

It’s a bold move, sidelining your title character like this, but it pays off. Weber shows us a variety of viewpoints, both villainous and heroic, with a few in between as well. The Honorverse is, somewhat surprisingly, a place of binary morality. There is Good, and there is Evil. Pavel Young is a prime example of the latter, an utter villain with no redeeming qualities. This early on in the series, it works, but I for one would like to see a little more complexity come in to play as the universe develops.

When a tragedy of the spoiler variety strikes, Honor returns to the forefront. A lot has been made of Honor’s ruthless pragmatism, but here we see a side of her that has seldom been on display.  Aside from her ‘rescue’ of female prisoners at Grayson in The Honor of the Queen, this is the first real show of her infamous cold rage. It’s chilling to read, and opens up a whole new layer to the character.

The one thing that dis annoy me a little, was that everyone seems very much on Honor’s side, except for the aforementioned villains. Even when they oppose her, they do so halfheartedly, as if she’s some untouchable paragon. This time around, Weber gets away with it, but a little conflict between heroes wouldn’t go amiss down the road.

But that is a minor complaint in what is otherwise a great book. The glimpses we get of everyday life in Manticore are welcome, as is the closer examination of the complex political situation. Four books in and I finally feel I’m getting a grip on the competing factions. Coming from a nation which actually has a House of Lords and a House of Commons, I wonder if I’m at an advantage over Weber’s American readers. If the complexity here can be replicated elsewhere, then I’ll be a happy reader for some time yet.

Lack of battles aside, Field of Dishonor will certainly meet your expectations of an Honor Harrington, and may even exceed them.

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