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Well, that was a disappointment, possibly because the Honorverse has gotten too damned big.

If you were expecting Shadow of Victory to be direct follow-on to Shadow of Freedom or Cauldron of Ghosts then you’re in for a disappointment. It does get there eventually[1], but before that it covers most of the timeline from Mission of Honor and A Rising Thunder from different perspectives[2].

It also revisits substantial chunks of Shadow of Freedom, again from slightly different perspectives. The Continuity Lockout is strong in Shadow of Victory, if you’re not across the rest of the Honorverse you’re going to struggle keeping track of what’s going on.

Actually, you’re likely to struggle anyway. I certainly found this to be an easy book to put down and read in stages.

Much of the early book is setting up three or four new Verge planets where the Mesan Alignment is provoking rebellions using false promises of Manticoran aid[3]. The problem here is that the Honorverse is now too big to deliver a focussed story in. The multiple plotlines, featuring new characters and planets, are hard to keep track of and with one exception feel like they’ve been handled fairly shallowly. That one exception does have a nicely nuanced resolution though.

Meanwhile the characters that most of the readers are here for get relatively short shrift, and are fairly poorly handled when they do appear.

This was a real disappointment, since Mr Weber can be better than this. A lot better.

Cast your mind back to the beginning to On Basilisk Station. The story of Honor dealing with a reluctant crew, and inspiring them to rise to legends, is the real hook for the Honorverse. It really does have superb character work, and it’s something that Mr Weber often did well in the earlier instalments of the series, and in particular Honor Among Enemies comes to mind.

One element of Shadow of Victory in particular brought those two instalments back to mind. At this stage it isn’t a spoiler that Haven and Manticore are now allied. What we’ve seen very little of is interpersonal crises arising from characters on both sides who haven’t gotten over the long Manticore-Haven wars.

For a while it looked like Shadow of Victory was going to tackle that, and was setting up a tension between Lester Tourville and Aivars Terekhov. Those are great characters, and Mr Weber has done a lot of good work with them in previous instalments.

Here he sets the tension up and then… resolves it in a couple of paragraphs. I think that was the moment when my disappointment in Shadow of Victory crystallised. There was so much dramatic potential there, and it felt like it was edited out to make room for Verge rebellions that I didn’t really care about anyway.

Overall, Shadow of Victory is very much for diehard fans of the Honorverse, and may make me less of a fan if the next novel isn’t a lot more focused than this one was.

[1] After about 600 pages. No, Really. I’m not making this up you know.

[2] Again.

[3] One of them might have debuted in Shadow of Freedom. I think.