In one sense the expansion is reminiscent of the Heinlein Juveniles in that it isn’t one story but two. Mr Weber wisely refrained from padding the original novella to novel length, and instead added a follow-on story set a couple of years later.
This does create a story that feels like it was serialised. However the connection between the two stories is quite natural making this more of a Between Planets serialisation than a Farmer in the Sky example.
Inevitably (this is David Weber after all) the second section involves a degree of mayhem, but stops short of forcing Stephanie to cross a line forever. The training sequences that prepared her for that line are well done, but actually crossing it might have disqualified the work from remaining in the Young Adult classification.
Stephanie Harrington is a strong lead, and carries the novel well. The novel is fairly tightly edited, and the infodumps are fairly restrained.
However I’m not sure that they are restrained enough to retain the attention of the intended Young Adult audience for this series. Time will tell but I do look forward to the sequel Fire Season (which Jane Lindskold will apparently coauthor).
The cover by Daniel Dos Santos is an odd blend of the 14 year old Stephanie from the second story, with the weaponry and Lionheart from the first. Having said that I do like this cover for a number of reasons:
- She’s holding a vibroblade and looks like she’s ready to use it. This, for those who have read the original novella, is appropriate.
- Practical clothing for hostile terrain.
- If you look carefully at her face there are signs that she’s been in a bit of a brawl.
- Neither Stephanie, nor Lionheart, are looking particularly happy right now. Lionheart looks ready to shred something… or someone.
For a novel aimed at Young Adults I think that this is a reasonably brave choice in art direction. It is a somewhat confronting cover, particularly in terms of referencing the line mentioned earlier.
Having said that, and despite the inaccuracies, the cover captures the spirit of the novel remarkably well. Overall I like the cover a lot, and this definitely one of the better covers for Honorverse novels.
In conclusion I enjoyed A Beautiful Friendship, and I am looking forward to the sequel.