The Honorverse is complex enough that it actually needs a companion volume to provide background on Manticore and Haven.
The short novel I Will Build My House of Steel by David Weber that opens the volume is worth the price of admission in its own right.
I Will Build My House of Steel
I really enjoyed I Will Build My House of Steel; this look at the life and career of Roger Winton  tells a solid story whilst also developing the background of Manticore before Honor was born.
Roger’s determination to prepare the Star Kingdom for war with Haven, including his own service within the Royal Manticoran Navy, are well told and is possibly one of the most tightly edited Weber stories I’ve seen for a while.
The story sets the foundation for the RMN’s research programs that ultimately led to Ghost Rider, and also introduces the reader to much younger versions of Sonja Hemphill, Hamish Alexander, etc.
This is where the story truly shines because for me the real point of this story is the adaptation of Manticoran society to prolong. It isn’t smooth, it isn’t pretty, but it is human and these are the aspects of the story that are handled best . The story also provides a lot of deep background into Elizabeth’s characterisation, and this is also worthwhile.
The Honorverse Companion
It should be noted that much of the information pre-dates At All Costs, particularly in the character descriptions .
The colour plates illustrating uniforms, award ribbons, ships, etc are excellent .
The companion has two major sections covering the Star Empire of Manticore and the Protectorate of Grayson. Both sections cover government, history, astrography, major people, and the military services of each. I didn’t read this in detail, but it will be a useful reference in future.
It is worth noting that Rachel Mayhew is described as “entering her second year at the Saganami Island Naval Academy”. Having already seen Honor’s middie cruise in Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington and Abigail Hearns’ in The Service of the Sword, I’m going to bet that we’ll see Mr Weber complete a “middie” trilogy of short stories in the not too distant future .
There is also an afterword with FAQs and an essay on Building a Navy in the Honorverse that was co-authored by David Weber and Christopher Weuve. Mr Weuve is a naval analyst that was formerly on the faculty of the US Naval War College. This is a fascinating essay, and well worth reading.
The FAQs cover a surprising range of topics, and are sometimes answered in a humorous vein.
By definition this isn’t a book that will appeal to people who aren’t fans of the Honorverse. For those that are, I think it is definitely worth having and I Will Build My House of Steel is an excellent addition to canon.
 There is no mention of the Battle of Manticore for instance.
 Looking at Honor’s service dress uniform it is just as well that she won’t have any more hypercapable commands as Captain, I’m not sure that there’s room for any more stars in that section of her uniform.
- Shadow of Freedom (2013) by David Weber (piratesobg.wordpress.com)