While this isn’t my favorite Honor Harrington book, I really can’t think of any reason not to give it five stars, so that’s what I’m doing. In this book, Honor is still an admiral in the Grayson Navy, but Manticore comes crawling back to her, begging her to rejoin their navy as a mere captain to lead a four ship squadron of Q ships in the Silesian Confederacy area, where pirates are destroying merchant shipping and crews. It’s an ugly invitation, but she wants back in the Manticoran Navy so badly, she accepts. Crazy.
Q ships are converted merchant freighters with no armaments to speak of, but in this case, with lots of weaponry. They are to act as targets for pirates and when they are attacked, to destroy the pirates. But obviously, they have to do so immediately, as they can’t sustain damage. Honor is gratified to learn that her captains and execs are of good quality and she knows some of them, but the crews are a combination of cast offs and new recruits fresh out of the academy. Not good.
Klaus Hauptman figures in this book. He asks that she be chosen for this assignment because she’s a great combat commander AND if she gets killed, that’s great for him too, as he hates her. So when she saves his sorry butt late in the book, it’s pretty ironic.
A nice piece of writing in this book has to do with Haven. In the past, the Havenites have always been evil, for the most part. In this book, we see some evil Havenites, but we see some good ones too. It makes for a more realistic and humane look at this group of people. One Havenite cruiser is in the same area as Honor’s ship and it’s going after pirates too, and the captain rescues some Manticorans, even though he knows he probably should have destroyed them.
Speaking of pirates, there are some pretty evil ones in this book. Led by a maniac. With nukes. And of course, Honor outwits him. Couldn’t have it any other way. And also, the body count is high in this book. Honor’s crews always suffer high casualties. Makes ya wonder why so many people want to serve under her.
One nice touch was a new kid fresh out of the academy. He shows some promise in Engineering and is promoted, but there’s a crew of about five nasty bullies, led by one utterly insane nutjob. He loves to hurt people. He wants to murder people. And he wants to desert the navy, knowing it’s an execution squad he would be facing if he were caught. Well, he catches this kid alone and beats the shit out of him. Someone spots them and runs him off, but neither of them will say anything other than the kid fell down. Right. Everybody knew who did it, but there’s no proof. Later, one of the kid’s friends, a female of the same rank, has her space suit (?) sabotaged, and nearly dies, but again there’s no proof. Meanwhile, this kid has been working out with the Marines on board the ship, learning how to fight. He goes and tracks down the bully. He goads him into taking a swing at him and then beats the shit out of him and it’s a pretty sweet scene to read. Honor gives the bully 90 days in the brig, followed by a court martial. She gives the kid one day of sitting in his room and docks him one week’s pay. He’s stunned. He thought he’d lose his stripes and maybe be court martialed himself. She knew what was going on. She approved. Nice.
It was good to get Honor away from the religious nuts and politics of Grayson. That was starting to get old. But it was crappy not seeing her in the captain’s chair of a dreadnaught. However, she worked wonders with those Q ships and it was a pretty good story, so five stars it is. Recommended.