E-Book Review: In Enemy Hands (Honor Harrington #7)

IEH_6As I mentioned in my review of Honor Among Enemies, with In Enemy Hands the Honorverse series changes from a pure space navy series to something more politically-based. While there are still plenty of naval battles in the offing, at times the space combat takes a distinct back seat to all the political maneuvering. I suspect that this is why a number of readers seem to feel it “jumped the shark” at this point—they started reading it because they liked space battles, and suddenly it turned into something very different.

This book begins a phase of the series expressly focused on the politics of Haven, with a turn to focus expressly on the politics of Manticore a few books away. Still later in the series, it will swing around again to focus on the politics of an entity that doesn’t even have any (obvious) pieces on the board yet. And at the same time, Honor’s love life starts to resemble a soap opera even more than it already did. Small wonder it loses a bit of audience here!

Previously:

  1. Introduction
  2. Treecat Trilogy
  3. A Beautiful Friendship
  4. Young Honor and Elizabeth
  5. Prince Michael rescues and Honor dances
  6. On Basilisk Station
  7. The Honor of the Queen
  8. The Short Victorious War
  9. Irresponsible captain, itinerant noble
  10. Field of Dishonor
  11. Flag in Exile
  12. Honor Among Enemies
  13. Of treecats and grapeshot

Continuing my review of Honor Harrington stories and novels in chronological order:

Honor has returned from her (costly) success fighting pirates with fragile Q-ships in Silesia with a new treecat member of her family—Samantha, whose human bond-mate was killed in action during the last great battle of Honor Among Enemies. She gets a much-overdue promotion to Commodore, and returns to Grayson on the way to her new duty as a squadron commander, and happens to encounter Hamish Alexander, Lord White Haven,

Harrington and Alexander have met a couple of times in previous books, for short periods, but they’ve never really gotten to know each other. And it just so happens that at the start of this book, they do get to know each other—rather better than either of them had anticipated or expected. In fact, during a flaming row over the advisability of new types of naval weapons, they quite unexpectedly fall in a sort of psionic-assisted love at first sight.

This is problematic for both of them, because Alexander is married to one of the Star Kingdom of Manticore’s most-beloved and tragic figures, Emily Alexander, who has been confined to a hoverchair since a terrible aircar accident many years ago. Because of that, Alexander, who fell in love first, was determined not to let his new feelings show in any way—but of course Honor, whose link to her treecat Nimitz lets her sense the emotions of other, could tell the moment it happened. And to her horror, she discovered she reciprocated those feelings herself.

So, desperate to put some distance between her and Alexander, Honor returns to duty several weeks early, and her squadron is assigned guard duty over a supply convoy. And not to spoil the book too much, but it should be obvious from the title where Honor eventually ends up.

Meanwhile, on Haven, Rob S. Pierre and Oscar St. Just are dealing with the aftermath of the coup attempt chronicled in “A Whiff of Grapeshot”. They’ve decided to bring Admiral Esther McQueen into the Committee of Public Safety as the new Secretary of War. Even though she’s known to be ambitious, clever, and sneaky, they think that they can manage her—and she has a pretty clear stake in seeing to it that Haven wins, too. They hope that she can undo some of the damage done by the Committee’s policy of shooting military officers and their families in reprisal for failures.

Cordelia Ransom, another of the Committee’s original members, does not like McQueen’s appointment at all (given that she has a pathological dislike of the navy), but allows herself to be persuaded. Then she hops aboard a State Security cruiser, the Tepes, to go out and shoot some footage of Admiral Thomas Theisman, who has been assigned to defend a star base that is the obvious low-hanging fruit for Manticore’s next attack. (Perhaps this is at least in part so she doesn’t have to deal with McQueen herself.)

Like an irresistible force heading for a fateful encounter with an immovable object, Harrington and Ransom are destined to meet—in an encounter that will try the souls of Honor and her crew, and also those of sympathetic Havenite navy officers Thomas Theisman, Lester Tourville, Shannon Foraker, and Warner Caslet, who happen to be on hand for the encounter.

But after you get into enemy hands, there’s only one way to go from there—and without giving too much away, the scheming of Honor’s crew to enable their escape is a section I like to read over and over. The sneakiness of one particularly-intelligent non-commissioned officer plays a major role.

As the first book to go really in-depth in its focus on Havenite politics, the political situation is interesting. Rob S. Pierre’s situation really does illustrate that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. As I’ve mentioned before, he instigated a coup because he honestly thought he could do a better job running the nation than those who came before him—and to an extent, he has been right. But he has also carried on many of the same excesses as his predecessors, because he felt he had no choice—and because of the sort of people he had to get in bed with to pull the coup off.

In particular, Cordelia Ransom. We haven’t gotten a good look at her prior to this book, but the more we see of her the more it becomes apparent what a “prize” she really is. Her extreme antipathy for anything to do with the military, including military concepts of honor even among enemies, have already damaged the relationship of Haven’s government with its military. In this book, they are set to do more than that.

I wonder if anyone on the Manticore side, in the later books in the series, is ever truly aware just how much of the change that is to come in the next few books traces directly to what happens to Honor while she is, well, “in enemy hands”. The confrontation between her and Ransom crystallizes the attitudes of a number of sympathetic Havenite officers (and People’s Commissioners) and sets the stage for important events in future books.

Something else that could have major implications is the way Harrington is accompanied to Grayson by a gaggle of treecats who’ve decided they want to start a colony on another planet, to the consternation of Sphinx’s human authorities. Among other things, this starts to demonstrate the native intelligence of the little critters. And something that happens to Nimitz in this book is another seed that will grow into something more important over the next few volumes.

And finally we come to the strange empathic romance, the “love at first psi” if you will, between Honor and Alexander. Fortunately it barely shows up in the first part of the book, and then is absent save for occasional angst on White Haven’s part over the next couple of books, but it hints at a bit more annoying angst to come.

It’s not really fair to complain about it being needlessly soap operatic—it’s not as if this is the first time a romantic relationship has been milked to give characters something to agonize over. But it is a touch…abrupt. The potential for this attraction wasn’t even hinted at in any of their previous encounters, and then bam, there it is. I suppose I’ll have more to say about it when it pops up again in future volumes.

I look forward to reviewing the next book, Echoes of Honor, which is one of my favorites—or at least half of it is.

3 Comments on E-Book Review: In Enemy Hands (Honor Harrington #7)

  1. I’ve wondered who could really like the late books in this series–a series which really started well. The Rob S. Pierre thing is way on the nose for me (Robespierre along with his associate St. Just being the core of the French Terror). This, and later books in the series seem to me to descend to long dialogues, and silly excuses for the war to continue. Perhaps because of the affair thing, at this point in the series, I’ve become less interested in Honor. In my mind, the treecats exist to give young female readers something to gush about–any scene with treecats can be skipped, and any scene with treecats talking to other treecats must be skipped to avoid sudden onset diabetes from the unbearable sweetness of it all.

  2. Well, I’m sticking with the series as I still find it enjoyable.

    Doesn’t mean I don’t gloss over the recaps and duplicate sections across the mutiple sub-series but I’m interested in seeing how he ties it all up with a bow and whether or not he’s really telegraphed everything to come. (I have my guesses.)

    The first thing I keep in mind when I run into one of his “rough patches” mind is that he is playing in Smith/Hamilton/Campbell territory–Big Time Space Opera–so larger than life characters and sledgehammer characterization can be excused.
    The second, which impacts the most recent stories, is that the wars were supposed to have ended, Honor was supposed to have died, and the narrative jumped to the next generation by now but Weber, probably realizing it might not be, ahem, healthy to cross Honor fans (of which there is no shortage) collapsed the timeline and blended in the antagonists of the planned third arc into the second, which of course results in a war that won’t end.

    The reason I personally don’t mind is that the new twist fits in reasonably well with the scope of the series as a whole which plays out as an Epochal War in three acts.
    The first act being the “skirmishes” between the ideological poles of the Epochal War, right up to the Fall of the Legislaturists.
    The second act broadens the scope of the war, drawing in other players as the hidden agitators step up, the conflict expands, and the Status Quo Ante becomes unsupportable and all impacted societies start to take sides. That arc looks to be climaxing with the most recent volumes on the Talbot Cluster arc and Mission of Honor.
    The third arc is what I’m looking forward to since, if he pulls it off right, it will be where all the occassional wordiness and detours pay off in a grand scale and undoubtedly multi-volume space opera panorama on the Lensmen scale. Not sure they’ll be throwing light-speed planets at each other before they’re done, but the escalation of this war is barely starting.

    I’m not sure Weber *can* pull it off but I’m sticking with the series in the hope he does because what he is attempting is rare in the field and except for Lensmen I don’t think anybody else has quite pulled it off. (And, lets face it; Smith had his own issues with romance and exposition.)

    Not looking to spoil anything for anybody, but he isn’t exactly hiding where he is going with the series. And while the first arc played out as the Napoleonic Wars in Space, the entire series harkens back to a much earlier Epochal war, probably the first: the one that started with Thermopylae, ran through Salamis, and ended at Plataea.

    I have high expectations, plotwise, and I’m willing to put up with the wordsmithing issues in hopes of a memorable payoff. In the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  3. Firstly, great review chris, looks like a really good read! I always check out this site before buying any E-Books – http://www.ultimateselfhelpguides.com. Their E-Book reviews are great and give real opinions. Sometimes they give them away for free.

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