BOOK REVIEW: Storm from the Shadows, 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 (#2)

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 1050

Publication Date: 2009

Verdict: 2/5

It’s been a turbulent few weeks for Michelle Henke. Captured by Haven, forced into a  diplomatic role and then promoted to Vice Admiral. Now she finds herself sent to the Talbott Cluster. It should be an easy assignment, but it could well end up plunging Manticore into yet another war . . .

Here it is then. The fat of the Honorverse. Everything that was trimmed from the excellent At All Costs has landed here, where it has congealed into a novel. It’s fitting, and perhaps inevitable, that the best Honorverse book in an age would be immediately followed by the nadir of the series. Like Shadow of SaganamiStorm from the Shadows insists on doubling down on all the aspects of Weber’s work that don’t work for me. The villains are increasingly cartoonish, and evil now walks hand in hand with stupid. Nothing can be done without long and rambling discourse over the political fallout. It may be realistic, and you have to applaud Weber for his commitment, but it doesn’t make for a very entertaining novel. This book’s crime is not that it is long, it’s that it is long-winded.

The first two hundred pages do not need to be there. They recount, almost directly, scenes from At All Costs. I’m not averse to a little overlap. indeed, showing a different side to affairs can be rewarding. But there is nothing new here It’s a retread of very familiar ground that could easily have been glossed over. The next four hundred pages are little better, showing events in the Talbott Cluster during the cataclysmic events of the main Honor Harrington series. the problem here is that these events are not terribly interesting. We already know much of the outcome from the main series, and we know too that it is Honor, not Henke, who will be dealing with the truly important matters.

The second half of this very long book do pick up, but by then the damage has been done. I like Michelle Henke as a character, and am glad she’s getting more page time. But at the same time, it’s odd to see the swarm of new characters introduced in Shadow of Saganami already relegated to supporting role sin their own series. There are far too many elements in this book, and not enough actual plot to support them all. Perhaps worst of all, there is no resolution at the end of it. A cliffhanger that asks not so much ‘what next?’ as it does ‘so what?’

Despite this, there are a few spots of light in the darkness. The looming threat of the Solarian League becomes ever more apparent. The growth of the Star Kingdom of Manticore into a Star Empire is a crucial development, as is the Mesan Alignment’s harsh summary of the Honorverse thus far. For all their obvious evilness, it’s easy to see that the Alignment has a point. To a neutral observer, Manticore does indeed start to look like the villain of the piece. there are a few other hints of forward momentum, but all of these are promises for future books, with nothing delivered in this one.

As a book, Storm from the Shadows has very little to commend it. But with any luck, the seeds planted here may yet bear fruit.

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