BOOK REVIEW: In Enemy Hands, by David Weber

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

-This review also contains spoilers for In Enemy Hands

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Publisher: Baen

Series: Honor Harrington (#7)

Genre: Space Opera/Military SF

Pages: 530

Publication Date: 1997

Verdict: 3/5

 

The war between Haven and Manticore rages on, and Honor Harrington returns to the fight. But with the People’s Republic sending all forces to the front line, has she finally met her match?

This marks the midway point in the Honor Harrington series. Unfortunately, it also marks the first real stumbling point of the Baen juggernaut. It’s inevitable that any long-running series will have a volume that doesn’t please everyone, and this, for me, is it.

The main problem is, perhaps surprising, the blurb. The back cover proudly declares that in this exciting installment, Honor is outwitted, forced to surrender, and sent to a Havenite prison camp called Hell. That’s all well and good. It certainly had me hooked. But that’s not how the book opens. In fact, it’s not until the three-hundred page mark that any of these events come to pass. As a result, the preceding pages drag by, weighed down by the knowledge that it’s all heading in one direction. there’s no tension, no drama, when you already know how the battle is going to play out. Everything proceeds with little sense of consequence.

The second half of the book, in which Honor is already a prisoner awaiting execution or worse, is far better. But by this point the damage has been done. It’s not that the book itself is bad, in fact it’s as well-written and action packed as any other volume in the series. It’s just been utterly spoiled by the blurb.

In Enemy Hands is at its best when chronicling events not described in the blurb. The ongoing political situation in Manticore, for example. A lot of the ground is retread from earlier books, but this time brings more development to several characters. Honor’s family and those serving under her command are fleshed out in more detail. Of course, the best sections are those set in the People’s republic of Haven itself. The good people working in a broken system, and those who convince themselves of the same.

As the Honorverse develops, it has been interesting to note the shift from the fairly self-contained adventures of Captain Harrington, to a more ensemble approach. There are now more threads of plot than a single book can contain, but it doesn’t feel bloated. yes this particular book feels like it could have done with a  little trimming around the edges, but nothing major. Had it not been for the back cover, I am sure I would have enjoyed the first half just as much as the last.

The Honorverse itself is left in an interesting place at the end of this book. The balance of the long war has now shifted, or so it seems. And we’ve also had our first proper glimpse of the almighty Solarian league – a sort of benign superpower ensuring human rights are not violated by either side. From what I’ve seen of the series going forward, they’re going to be major players sooner rather than later.

So, not a perfect book, and probably better if you don’t read the blurb. But the first half of Honor Harrington’s saga has come to an end, and I’m definitely sticking around for the conclusion.

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