This book was great until the end, when it left its main story to go to another side story and never got back to the main story, just at a critical time. I was frankly astonished the author would do this. What an ass!
When I bought this book, I had read many David Weber books so I knew what to expect. What I didn’t know was this is the third book in a trilogy and I hadn’t read the first two. However, this book could be viewed as a stand alone book and I felt pretty comfortable with the characters and scenarios shortly after getting into the book.
In this book, Emperor Colin and his wife rule over a massive empire of hundreds of worlds, which they’ve put together some 45,000 years after the collapse of the last empire. And their two grown children, who’ve just graduated from the military academy, are with some friends on the biggest, newest battleship flying to another destination when disaster strikes. Someone truly evil who is after the empire blows the battleship up, but first, the five young people get away on a small ship. However, they discover they’re in the middle of nowhere and it takes them 21 months to get to the nearest planet, which strikes me as pretty stupid of Weber. Meanwhile, Colin and his wife and friends have mourned the kids’ loss and have gotten pregnant again, so there will be an heir.
Their son, Sean, his sister, Harry, and their three friends approach this planet which they discover has a medieval quality to it and no technology, except for one giant tech source. They need assistance with their space craft and think they can get it there. Except for when they approach too quickly, they are fired upon and their craft is damaged. They retreat and go to another location, where they stay and send out drones so they can see what it’s like there and what the language is like so they can learn it.
When they finally go down to the planet, they go to the Valley of the Damned, where they are fired on and they fire back, destroying the automated systems firing on them. They find an ancient computer from 16,000 years ago and discover a journal that tells the history of the planet, how technology was banned, how the Church was created and dominated the entire world, etc. Sounds like a precursor to Safehold, doesn’t it? Well, that’s cause it basically is. It’s Safehold in practice.
They go to the local village, where Harry had been fired upon and injured and they rescue her, blowing up half the village but killing no one. The people think the two women are angels because they speak in the language of angels and wear the attire of angels and only women are angels. They were worried these people would be demons. The local priest approaches them and they talk to him. He feels very honored and believes the two men are the angels’ “champions” and preaches the gospel of the angels around the countryside. Word gets back to the Temple and they send a small army out to destroy the heretics. The four young people help the villagers defeat the army, partly through the use of minorly advanced technology, such as rifled muskets that you can put bayonets on and still shoot with. The Temple sends a bigger army. In the meantime, the Malagorans (the country the village is in) have gathered the weapons left by the defeated army and recruited more men, spending a little time training them. They then march toward the Temple. They meet a large army at a small pass where its defenses look impregnable, but Sean takes a large group of soldiers through a swamp around their back and hits them from behind, completely surprising them while the main Malagoran army attacks from the front. The Temple army, after suffering some bad losses, surrenders. The Bishops are stunned. Isn’t God on their side? They recruit armies from the surrounding countries to go fight against Sean and his army and they are all defeated. Soon Sean and the Malagorans are at the walls of the Temple. The Council agrees to a parlay, agreeing to send out hostages if Sean and Tamm go inside to meet them with some of their troops. However, it’s a trap. Sean realizes this at just the right time and gets his men lined up in a triangle while Temple pikemen rush them, but they’re obliterated by the Malagoran’s rifle fire. However, they can’t stay there forever, because they’ll be bringing up artillery to shell them and then it’ll be a bloody disaster. Meanwhile, the rest of the army storms the gates and it’s bloody as hell. It’s a real battle and it’s fought to a standstill. Sean and his men escape to a walled in area with ammunition and they fight off attackers, but they take bad losses. Sean thinks if only he could get to the Temple computer, he could program it to turn off its defenses and the fifth member of their crew could fly in with fighters and annihilate the Temple troops. So, he takes a few hundred men and heads for the temple. Once there, he heads for the computer. They find it and it’s ID protected. And they’re under enormous attack. And that’s where Weber leaves us.
Weber takes us back to Colin, his wife, and his friends. They discover a bomb big enough to destroy the planet is buried beneath the palace. They start evacuating the planet, but find out the bomb is armed and don’t know when it’ll go off. Meanwhile, Colin’s pregnant wife has escaped to earth to stay with her father, the governor. They’re attacked by 100 men. Will she die? Will Colin die? Will the kids die? Well, we find out about Colin and his wife, but we actually don’t get a good resolution to Sean and the others because we’re never taken back to the Temple and the battle. Weber never mentions it again. We don’t know how it shakes out. All we know is, at the very end of the book, Colin receives a transmission from them and that’s it. So apparently everyone survived. Yay, I guess? Shit, I wanted to see how the damn battle ended!!! Why did I wade through hundreds of bloody pages only to be left sitting there without ever knowing what happened to Sean, his crew, the Bishops, the Temple troops, and the Malagorans and their priest? I mean, what kind of asshole author leaves you hanging like that? That’s why this five star book is only getting three stars. It deserves better, but then so did I — a better ending. He cheated his audience out of a satisfying ending and I resent it. If you like the Safehold series, there’s probably no reason to read this. If you like this sort of book, it’s cautiously recommended, but only if you don’t mind being left hanging with an unsatisfying ending.