BOOK REVIEW: The Shadow of Saganami, by David Weber

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

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Publisher: Baen

Series: Saganami Island (#1)

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 897

Publication Date: 2004

Verdict: 3/5

The war with the People’s Republic of Haven has resumed, but that is far from Manticore’s only concern. A newly discovered sector is looking to pledge itself to the Manticoran cause, but not all support this goal. With Admiral Harrington fighting elsewhere, it falls to her students to lead the charge. . .

While the Crown of Slaves series leaned into full-blown space opera, the second Honorverse spin-off series follows the traditions of its progenitor and is a strict military SF. Maybe even more so than the main Honor Harrington books. Following up on the new wormhole junction discovered way back in War of Honor, this book, and I would assume the series, follows a group of newly graduated officers on their first missions after leaving the famous Saganami Island training centre. In the process, there are the usual space battles, political wranglings and acts of derring-do. It also pulls in strands from both the main series and the Crown of Slaves series, building a solid universe.

But what it doesn’t do, is add anything of its own. While Weber and Flint’s coauthored works had a feel of freshness about them, there is none of that on display here. The conflicts, though as well-written as ever, really just retread familiar ground. Even with the new worlds featured, they are just bit players in larger schemes by Manticore and the Solarian League. there’s a real feeling that the planets could just as easily be ones we’ve seen before. A few name changes and this could be happening anywhere. This is a problem that extends to the characters as well. There’s a large cast introduced, but by the end of the book I’d forgotten who most of them were. They’re cut and paste characters, more roles than individuals, and none do anything to stand out above the masses of characters already populating the Honorverse. This is a problem that has been building in Weber’s books for some time. With so many characters, it’s impossible to keep track of all of them.

This all sounds rather harsh, and perhaps it is. But even though the Honorverse is stuck in a narrative rut, I still trust that Weber is building to something. Maybe with this fat cut out of the main series, the Honor Harrington of the earlier books will make a reappearance. I hope so, because the first few volumes were, if not flawless, then great reads. The current slump in quality cannot be addressed through mere quantity, whatever the number of books might seek to tell you. I’ve reached the point where I cannot recommend the Honorverse to new readers, not without seeing if it sticks the landing.

In the end, this is a middle of the road book, but it remains to be seen if the Honorverse can rise out of this slump. If it can, that’ll be quite a recovery.

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