I thought this eighth book in the Honor Harrington series was completely spectacular! I was beyond impressed.
The book started off right where the previous book left off — with Honor and her crew marooned on the Haven prison island of Hades, trying to figure out an exit strategy after they had escaped the SS star ship taking them there by blowing it up and taking two of its small ships to the surface. However, Haven is devious if nothing else and produces a doctored video shown around the universe of Honor being executed by hanging and Manticore and Grayson’s citizens are stunned and devastated. They both hold gigantic funerals in her honor. Then there’s the matter of her titles and inheritance. She left no heir, so her cousin is given the Manticorian title of earl, in her stead, while the leaders of Grayson try to figure out what to do with her Key and her steading. The good thing is her physician parents are there, working in the geneticist clinic she set up, and they are talked into giving birth to another child to become her heir and to inherit her steadholder title.
Meanwhile, Haven’s wildly successful Admiral Esther McQueen is pretty much sticking it to Manticore while simultaneously juggling her new role as an official member of The Committee of Public Safety. She plans a four pronged attack against Manticore and Haven’s navy carries it out, but Manticore has some new secret weapons at its disposal and at two of these worlds that are attacked, they are deployed with heavy Peep losses. That said, Haven’s attacks are successful and Manticore is shaken to the bone. All of a sudden, its people realize they’re on the defensive for the first time in the war and it’s extremely demoralizing.
So Honor and her small crew are on Hades, also known as Hell. They’ve been spying on a small group of troublemaking prisoners, with the goal of making contact to see if they could ally themselves with them to attack the Havenite SS guards on the headquarters island of Styx. They make contact and befriend these prisoners, some of whom have been on this prison world for as long as 70 years. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of prisoners there. Honor has weapons and body armor for hundreds of them and begins to train them for an assault on Styx. They just wait for the right time. It eventually comes along and they take off. One of their ships takes off for an outlying courier ship that could alert other Havenites to what they’re up to and it blasts it out of the sky. Honor’s ship blows up Styx’s defenses, hell, half the island, lands and disperses its troops, and they quickly take over the island. They hold court martials for the Peep guards who were barbarians and execute many of them. The big problem now is how to get a half million prisoners off the world and back to Manticore. Honor has plans, however. And I’ll be damned if she doesn’t succeed. How she does it, I’ll leave for you readers to find out, but the pages are tense and action packed, particularly the final 150 pages. When she finally arrives in Manticorian space in the last couple of pages, it’s simply amazing that she was able to pull this off and survive. It’s stunning. It’s her best feat yet. And it’s the best Honor book I’ve read to date. Indeed, I know the next one starts off immediately where this one leaves off and I’ve already picked it up and begun reading it and I’m not disappointed. It’s a really exciting book with a lot of suspense and a lot of action and if you’re reading the Honor Harrington series, it’s strongly recommended.