I’m re-reading the last ten books in the Honorverse space opera series by David Weber in true chronological order. That is to say, I am reading it all as if it were one big story, not several separate books, in the order in which the events described took place (as much as possible.) I will even be skipping around between books as necessary. If you’d like some insight into why I’m doing that, and what I recommend you read before we begin (if you’d like to follow along,) please see my other posts in this series:
Prerequisites: War of Honor, Crown of Slaves
Suggested: “Service of the Sword” from Service of the Sword.
Books Required for this Post: The Shadow of Saganami, At All Costs
The Kingdom of Manticore is once again at war with the Republic of Haven. Unbeknownst to the characters, but knownst to us, Havenite Secretary of State Arnold Giancola has altered diplomatic correspondence between the two star-nations to raise tensions between them in order to increase his own power base by undermining President Eloise Pritchart and her administration. He was aided and abetted by a contact within the elected right wing High Ridge government in Manticore who was manipulating events for her own reasons, encouraged by a third party. Neither nation really wants to fight, but they feel they have no choice.
In the meantime, systems in the Verge known as the Talbott Cluster, have petitioned for annexation by the Star Kingdom of Manticore, who recently discovered a major wormhole nexus, the Lynx Terminus, in their region of space– again as a consequence of the events on Torch. This is in part motivated by the lurking threat of the Office of Frontier Security (Solarian League,) which has a habit of gobbling up nearby systems into their vast empire and then exploiting them, always under the pretext of having been invited in to “help maintain order.” The Talbott Cluster systems believe that Manticore will be able to protect them from Frontier Security.
I remind you that my idea of the sequence of events at this point is probably, in part, inaccurate. I am making my best guess. If someone is out there who’s better at crunching the numbers than I am, and you can tell that I am in error, please let me know and I’ll make the changes.
I’m basing my estimation of the timeline on a few things:
- On the Honorverse Fandom Wiki, a chronological reading order of the books is posted. It tells me that:
- Torch of Freedom begins November 1919 PD;
- The Shadow of Saganami begins June 1920 PD;
- At All Costs begins July 1920 PD;
- The Shadow of Saganami ends July 1921 PD;
- At All Costs ends August 1921 PD;
- Storm from the Shadows begins December 1920 PD.
- On the same wiki, a loose chronology of events is posted. It gives me a series of significant events (though often without a lot of information) and at least the rough date at which they occur. Some of these events are retold in different points of view between books. Even when they aren’t, they are often referred to in other books, and have effects which reverberate through all books. They can be used as checkpoints to line up dates, and as cross-references.
- All other times are estimates based roughly on the speed of ship travel or on how long I think it would take to accomplish specific tasks. These are often not mentioned specifically, and therefore represent my best guess.
- A new class graduates from Saganami Island. We join a few of the new graduates, including Helen Zilwicki, whom we have met before, as they prepare for their middy cruise aboard the Hexapuma, which will be captained by Captain Terekhov. The crew also included Lieutenant Abigail Hearns, the first woman in the Grayson Space Navy, as a junior tactical officer. We’ve met her before too. They will be assigned to the Talbott Cluster under the command of Admiral Khumalo, whom we know is a Conservative, by-the-book administrator type.
- The “Strategy Committee” on Mesa has been manipulating everything that’s happened in the past few books behind the scenes for their own reasons, including the resumption of hostilities between Manticore and Haven, the pressure on the situation that led to Torch, and the Erewhonese breaking from their alignment with Manticore. But things haven’t gone exactly the way they wanted. Torch’s liberation and Erewhon’s alliance with Haven were not part of their plans, and those events played out that way because of the actions of Cachat and Zilwicki. They are planning to seize control of the Lynx Terminus by giving new ships to the Monica System, and by rabblerousing terrorist groups in opposition to the proposed annexation. They are also planning something called Operation Rat Poison, which involves assassinations with the use of some experimental new nanotech.
- At home on Grayson, Honor prepares for the imminent death of her friend Howard Clinkscales, and spends some time with her nieces and nephews. She is urged to get on with creating an heir for the Steading, so that her much-younger sister doesn’t get too comfortable in the role before it’s taken away.
July (?) 1920 PD – At All Costs, Chapter 4 – Honor returns to Landing & White Haven, enjoying the company of her lover, Hamish Alexander, Earl White Haven, and his wife, Emily. For those who haven’t read the previous books, this is an established relationship, kept secret from the general public, which is happening with the full consent of all involved. (Kudos to Weber for writing a healthy, fulfilling polyamorous relationship! It’s nice to see!) The reason that it’s being kept secret is that Honor and Hamish’s political opponents tried to drum up a scandal around a supposed relationship between the two of them under the High Ridge administration, and now that there actually is a relationship between them, there’s a lot of political baggage around that. There are no rules limiting marriage to one man and one woman in a society where life-extending Prolong exists, but when Hamish and Emily were married, they originally vowed monogamy, and as any fan of the series knows, vow-keeping is a big deal in Manticoran culture. However, Emily was in a severe accident several years ago leaving her mostly paralyzed, so there are extenuating circumstances. It doesn’t help that their treecats, Nimitz and Samantha, are mates, either, especially since their empathic abilities has a bit of a rollover effect on their bonded humans, something fans of Pern will recognize.
July (?) 1920 PD – At All Costs, Chapter 5 & 6 – When he learns that Kevin Usher, Cachat’s direct superior and mentor, is investigating the matter, Havenite Secretary of State Arnold Giancola plots with Colonel Jean-Claude Nesbitt to make it look like someone was trying to frame him for altering the diplomatic correspondence with Manticore, instead of trying to hide that he’d done it at all. They conspire to frame Yves Grosclaude, Giancola’s co-conspirator, for the frame job. (Head swimming yet? Mine is!) In the meantime, the White Havens and Honor and their treecats enjoy each others’ company. There’s a bit of comic relief as Honor and Hamish try to make it look like they weren’t both sleeping in Hamish’s bed in the morning, even to their staff, and Honor isn’t as hungry as usual in the morning.
July (?) 1920 PD – The Shadow of Saganami, Chapter 6 – The crew of the Hexapuma does a simulator exercise, and Helen Zilwicki makes a significant tactical mistake. Abigail Hearns oversees the exercise. It’s beginning to look like the crew might be running undermanned, which means that even though she’s too junior for the position, Hearns, as the acting tactical officer may end up filling the role.
July (?) 1920 PD – At All Costs, Chapter 7 – Hamish and Honor are summoned to an audience with Queen Elizabeth III. Honor is appointed to Captain the Unconquered, Captain Saganami’s ship (restored,) which is a special honour in that it’s the only ship in the Navy that can be commanded directly by a flag officer. They attend an audience to promote Honor to Grand Knight, mostly a PR thing, since Honor is regarded as both lucky and good by the Service. The senior civilian leadership and military leadership discuss the tactical situation with Haven and the Alizon raid. Their wall of battle and new technical toys are explained to the reader in the course of their discussion. We are reminded that Manticore is outnumbered, and Haven is in the middle of a big build-up they can’t match. We learn that within two years, Manticore will probably be simply overwhelmed by Haven, so if they’re going to have a victory, there’s a time limit.
July (?) 1920 PD – The Shadow of Saganami, Chapter 7 – We meet Agnes Nordbrandt, who is starting a terrorist movement on the Talbott Cluster planet Kornati in opposition to the annexation. She meets with a man named Firebrand, who says he is coordinating movement to oppose the annexation on many planets in the Cluster, and he promises her modern Solarian weapons, purchased by (supposedly) stealing money from the Kornatian oligarchs.
July (?) 1920 PD – At All Costs, Chapter 8 – The Havenites do an intel-gathering raid on the Zanzibar system. The Zanzibaran leaders decide to ignore Manticoran Navy advice and treat it like a serious attack. Their secret system defenses are revealed to the enemy as a result.
You might think that reading back and forth between two books like this would slow down the pace, but it really doesn’t. There’s enough mixing of tactical tension, the beginnings of action, and personal character stuff that it keeps bopping by pretty much as any Honorverse book ever has. The downside is that keeping track of this many characters at once can be daunting, as any fan of A Song of Ice and Fire can attest to. This is, in part, why I’ve bolded many of the important characters’ names. Feel free to come back and use these posts as a reference.
The story is progressing in earnest now, and there are a lot of balls in the air. But I think it will be fulfilling to see them all coming back together at once.
One thing I enjoy quite a bit about this series is Honor’s essential humanity. She has a life outside of the Navy, and feelings, and we care about her life because we care about her. Many other writers of military fiction are content to leave all of that off-screen. I don’t like that myself. I can watch movies if I want nothing but action. I want to know why characters do what they do. I want to know who they are. Weber is a master of giving us that, both with the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” and often, even villains turn out to be heroes later in the series.
On the other hand, he’s not afraid to give us some genuine garbage people, too. Some people are just assholes, and they have no reason to do what they do other than their own selfishness, arrogance, or love of power. I like to see the villains plot because I want to see them get what’s coming to them in the end. Or at least, I hope that they do.
We’ll resume with The Shadow of Saganami, Chapter 8, next time.