-Major spoilers abound for all previous books in the Honorverse. Click here for a full index of reviews-
Series: Honor Harrington (#13)
Genre: Military SF/Space Opera
Publication Date: 2012
War is coming. Though they have made peace with their ancient foes in Haven, the Star Empire of Manticore now faces a far greater threat. The Solarian League is on the warpath, and not even Honor Harrington can stop what is to come . . .
The thirteenth and penultimate Honor Harrington novel continues the series’ recent strong streak. With so many books behind it, this genuinely feels like the moment when it’s all going to come crashing down on the Star Empire. Everything has been set in place, and now it’s just a matter of throwing them up and seeing where they land. A lot of material and characters from previous books come back into play as the star nations pick sides for the coming conflict, including a very welcome return for the Andermani.
Surprisingly, yet also fittingly, this is quite a slow book. Surprisingly because it’s easily the shortest Honorverse book in a long while. Fittingly, because this is very much the calm before the storm. It’s a book where the political amchinations of the major players are more intricate and desperate than ever before. Reading through chapter after chapter of misunderstanding and stubborness can be frustrating at times, because there’s an undeniable feeling of looming tragedy. Even when peace and diplomacy are the obvious solutions, you know that no one is actually going to pursuse these options. The tension had been ramped up too much to be defused now.
For a novel with her name and face on the cover, there is actually very little Honor Harrington in A Rising Thunder. It’s around a third of the way through before she makes an appearance, and after that she has only a handful of chapters, though they are of course among the most pivotal in the book, if not the series. In Honor’s stead, we once again ride Weber’s carousel of characters, both old and new, getting a decent look at both sides of the brewing conflict. As he did in the early days of the Manticore-Haven conflict, Weber does a sterling job of making both sides seem reasonable. While the Solarian league is clearly in the wrong, manipulated as they are by the Mesan Alignment, it’s easy to see how, from their perspective, they remain in the righ throughout.
It’s the aforementioned manipulation that strikes the only sour note in the book. Amid all the other realistic politicking and culture-clashes, it stretches credulity that a single force could manipulate the better part of a Galacy for six centuries. There are times when the Alignment strays from villain to plot device, and they remain almost comically evil. At times, I can’t help but feel that the series would be better without their involvement. That being said, the series Weber has written is still a strong one, enjoying a renaissance in its latter stages.
As the endgame approaches, Weber proves that there’s life in the old girl yet, and I for one am very much looking forward to the coming climax.