What price victory
The war with the Republic of Haven has resumed . . . disastrously for the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Admiral Lady Dame Honor Harrington, Steadholder and Duchess Harrington, the single victorious Allied commander of the opening phase of the new war, has been recalled from the Sidemore System to command Eighth Fleet. Everyone knows Eighth Fleet is the Alliance's primary offensive command, which makes it the natural assignment for the woman the media calls "the Salamander." But what most of the public DOESN'T know is that not only are the Star Kingdom and its Allies badly outnumbered by the Republic's new fleet, but that the odds are going to get steadily worse. Eighth Fleet's job is to somehow prevent those odds from crushing the Alliance before the Star Kingdom can regain its strategic balance. It's a job which won't be done cheaply. Honor Harrington must meet her formidable responsibilities with inferior forces even as she copes with tumultuous changes in her personal and public life. The alternative to victory is total defeat, yet this time the COST of victory will be agonizingly high.
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Nobody does space opera better than Weber, and his heroine, Honor Harrington, introduced in On Basilisk Station (1993), remains as engaging as ever in the latest tome to chronicle her adventures. At the start, intelligence agents of the newly democratic Republic of Haven detect a hidden hand behind their renewed hostilities with the Star Kingdom of Manticore. As the Havenites struggle to convince their foes that they are being manipulated by common enemies among the genetic slave trade, the Manticoreans force their hand until there's no alternative but the Mother of All Space Battles. Weber manages to invert the respective moral positions of his sides quite adroitly, showing how emotion and prejudice can impair even the finest among us. The sweep of interstellar conflict contrasts with developments in Honor's personal life that could have been maudlin, but succeed in being highly moving. Reading like a fusion of Horatio Hornblower, Robert A. Heinlein and Tom Clancy, this is easily the best installment in the series to date; one can well imagine that when future star warriors develop their tactics, Weber's narratives will provide a template.