BOOK REVIEW: Torch of Freedom, by David Weber & Eric Flint

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

torch.jpg

Publisher: Baen

Series: Crown of Slaves (#2)

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 826

Publication Date: 2009

Verdict: 4/5

Erewhon has broken from the Manticoran Alliance. Even within its borders, division is rife. As spies and operatives from across the Galaxy rush to take advantage of the chaos, the locals look to their own defences. And in the shadows, the Solarian League is watching, and waiting . . .

Like Crown of Slaves before it, Torch of Freedom is lighter fare than the increasingly complicated main Honorverse series. I’d even say that you could read this series without having read any of the Honor Harrington novels, though you would of course miss out on some of the context. For those who have been following the Honorverse as it develops, this will offer all the usual excitement and action that you’ve come to expect.

Nevertheless, this is a more complex work than its immediate predecessor. As experienced readers will be expecting, Weber seems unable to resist adding in dozens of new characters. I must confess, it’s been a little over a week since I read the book, and already I’ve forgotten most of them. I know I enjoyed the book while reading it, but looking back I’m finding it hard to recall the details of what happened.

This, I think, is the largest problem, not just with the Honorverse, but with any series of this length. Each installment is strong on its own, but the total is somehow less than the sum of its parts. While the older generation of characters are as familiar as old friends, the newer ones cannot compete. You can see this issue cropping up in longer series like the Honorverse, David Drake’s RCN series and also franchises such as the Star Trek and Star Wars expanded universes. There’s so much going on that it’s hard to pick out memorable moments. The expanding world of the Honorverse continues to impress, but the storyline is rapidly becoming dragged thin. In all honesty, I’m not sure how much longer the exponential growth can be sustained.

Unlike Crown of Slaves, this book fits in closely with the other Honorverse books more closely in terms of grammar and language. Perhaps Weber wrote more, or perhaps it’s the result of firmer editing. My money’s on the latter, but it certainly feels more like a Weber book than the first spin-off did. In particular, the climactic naval action is as strong as any conflict from the main series. While Flint’s distinctiveness is till there, this change does mak ethe Honorverse feel a more cohesive piece of fiction.

Overall, this is a strong book, but it leaves me wondering about the future of the Honorverse, and the future is not as bright as it once was.

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