Baen, 1996, 538 pages, C$8.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-671-87783-6
While recurring series are a boon for authors and publishers trying to make a honest buck by luring readers back for “one more adventure”, they also present particular challenges. How you you keep your protagonist fresh and interesting? How do you develop him or her in a realistic fashion even as they encounter murder, mayhem and mystery in every new volume? How do you explain or exploit their progress through the years?
At the speed by which Honor Harrington progressed through the ranks in the first three volumes of the series, readers could justifiably wonder if she’d end up Queen of the Known Universe by the end of the tenth book. While this may still be in the cards, the fourth volume’s conclusion made it amply clear that her career had been derailed for, oh, at least the following two novels. While she made good in an allied navy in Flag in Exile, she’s back in Her Majesty’s service for the in Honor Among Enemies. She’s wearing the proper Royal Manticoran Navy uniform once more, but don’t think that she’s back on the admiralty career track; summoned by her enemies for an impossible mission far away from the front-lines of the Havenite war, Harrington is being set up for an scenario where the odds are stacked against her.
But both Harrington and Weber’s readers are alike in that this is the kind of situation they like best. Once more thrown in the middle of lethal space battles (there’s even a hilarious moment where her new crew bemoan the body count that seems to follow her wherever she goes), Honor once again upholds the honour of the Queen, triumphs against impossible odds, trashes Havenite forces and acts like an officer and a gentlewoman should.
After the more complex political plots and subplots of Field of Dishonor and Flag in Exile, Honor Among Enemies is a return of sort to more straight-up military SF. Asked to destroy a ring of pirates decimating commercial traffic, Honor is ideally placed to use her tactics against a variety of enemy forces, most often than not at a numeric disadvantage. It works well, and it sure seems as if Weber is improving the pacing of his battle sequences with every successive book.
By isolating Harrington and putting her in a smaller cadre, Weber is also setting up a return to the more intimate settings that characterized the first book of the series, before Harrington started commanding small fleets. Honor can once more get the privilege of captaining a ship, with all the assorted challenges associated with the role over and above the inevitable space fights. In fact, Honor Among Enemies marks a first in the series by featuring an interesting subplot (Aubrey Weatherman’s adventures) that does not feature Harrington. (Heck, there’s even a treecat romance thrown in) That too works well, as it’s sort of a teaser -we guess- for what will follow as she starts playing a more active role in the Havenite war.
In short, this is yet another satisfying entry in the Honor Harrington series. Provided you’re still a fan by this point (and why shouldn’t you be if you’re reading the sixth volume?), there’s plenty of things to like in this book. The standard plot template is faithfully followed, but Honor Among Enemies delivers what it’s supposed to; a pretty decent reading experience for the fans. Now, could we get cracking on the Havenite war in time for the seventh volume?
(I should finally note, as an interesting factoid, that even though I own the paperback version of this book, I ended reading it as an ebook provided on the War of Honor CD-ROM. In this particular case, it was initially a question of convenience (I had my PDA with me at the opportune moment) and then of physical preference (my paperback had a horrible “crinkly” binding, with practically no inner margins) Hmm… Could I be catching the ebook bug?)