BOOK REVIEW: At All Costs, by David Weber

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

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Publisher: Baen

Series: Honor Harrington (#11)

Genre: Military SF/Space Opera

Pages: 852

Publication Date: 2005

Verdict: 4/5

The war with the republic of Haven has resumed, and the tide has turned against Manticore. Fighting a losing battle against seemingly impossible odds, this is the Star Kingdom’s darkest hour. But it has an ace up its sleeve. An ace called Honor Harrington . . .

Against the odds, Weber has done it. With the Honorverse spiralling into and below mediocrity with the past few novels, this is the exact novel that needed to be written. For the first time in months, I can happily say that I actively enjoyed reading an Honorverse book.  While the others have been entertaining despite their flaws, At All Costs is thrilling throughout, and has absolutely restored my faith not only in the series, but in Weber as an author.

What makes this book different to those that came before? Well in a way nothing. The formula hasn’t changed. It’s still Honor and Manticore fighting against the Havenites as they have been for a dozen books now. But for the first time since the earlier works, there’s a real sense of momentum in this book.  A feeling that the Honorverse is finally emerging from the stalemate that has stagnated over the preceeding instalments. For once, the last stand of Manticore genuinely is climactic. Even if not everything is resolved, this is a major turning point for the series, and hopefully the start of an upward trajectory.

At All Costs also begins the unenviable task of tying together the various plot strands introduced in to the two spin-offs, Saganami Island and Crown of Slaves. It’s great to see the universe coming together like this, even if the somewhat confusing timeline does lead to a few minor plot points being spoiled on either side in this chronological readthrough of mine. In particular, At All Costs fully introduces the Mesan Alignment to the Honor Harrington novels, as well as the looming conflict with the Solarian League. This two elements are going to be very important going further into the series, and are set up nicely here.

There are of course a few problems. The new villains are perhaps a little too villainous. Caricatures a far cry from the more fully realised Rob Pierre of the Honorverse’s early days. It’s easy to imagine the Mesan Alignment twirling moustaches and kicking puppies, but honestly, if less developed villains are the price to pay for a renewal of the Honorverse, it’s a price I am more than willing to pay. The other problem is Weber’s ongoing struggle with brevity. There are many space combats in this book (hooray!) but it seems nothing can be done without a hundred pages of discussing the political ramifications of these actions (boo!). This book could have been considerably shorter, and perhaps better for it. There is also a development regarding Honor’s love life which I find implausible, but I’m willing to see how it pans out before critiquing in detail. These are all fairly minor things, however, and it’s good to see that much of the fat has been cut out to leave an impressive novel behind.

At the end of the day, At All Costs is the best Honorverse book in a long while, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next.

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