BOOK REVIEW: Shadow of Freedom, by David Weber

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

freedom.jpg

Publisher: Baen

Series: Saganami Island (#3)

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 597

Publication Date: 2013

Verdict: 3/5

 

As tensions between the Star Empire of Manticore and the Solarian League threaten to erupt into an all out shooting war, the fate of millions lies in the hands of just a few commanders. But with Mesa pulling the strings, is anything truly as it seems . . ?

At this stage in the Honorverse readthrough, I find there’s not much to be said that hasn’t already been written. As I had feared, but as I had expected, the Saganami Island spin off continues to let the side down. It’s not that it’s a bad book. In fact, this is probably the spin-off’s strongest entry to date. It’s just that it doesn’t add much in the way of new material. Like its predecessors, Shadow of Freedom takes place concurrently with the main Honor Harrington series. This results in events being retold and future ones being spoiled. Perhaps not such an issue of you read the books as released, but reading it only a few weeks after the last, the temptation to skim pages is all too real.

Like the last few books, Shadow of Freedom is handily divided into sections each covering the events of a single month. I can’t help but wonder if the series would be better read in absolute chronological order. These sections are the only real way of keeping track of the increasingly confused Honorverse timeline, and I’m glad they’re there. They also bring a real sense of time to the series, showing that the descent into war take splace over the better part of a year. While I have at times complained that the series takes things far too slowly, in this respect at least it’s good to see that Weber is not rushing through to his conclusion.

Unfortunately, Shadow of Freedom continues the series’ main flaw, and that is a total lack of focus. While the main series has returned its attention to Honor herself, and the Crown of Slaves spin-off remains focused on Torch, Saganami Island eagerly attempts to tell every story, and ends up telling none of them. More characters are thrown onto the page with each chapter, and there’s little to no reason to be interested in any of them. Even Michelle Henke falls foul of this, drowned as she is in a cast of hundreds. The PoV hopping nature of scened frequently confuses, and a lot of the side characters are indistinguishable from one another.

By this point, the Saganami Island books are all but folded into the main narrative of the Honorverse. Not so much telling their own story as expanding on Honor’s tale. It’s a shame, because the potential for a self-contained series was there from the start. That being said, there’s still entertainmnet to be found here. And if a few shakier entries are the price to be paid for the renaissance of the main Honor Harrington series, then it’s one I’m willing to endure.

Shadow of Freedom is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite Honroverse novel, but it does fill in a few gaps, and the end is now in sight.

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