The Short Victorious War
is the third book in the Honor Harrington series and covers the plans by the People's Republic of Haven's attempts to initiate a war with the Manticorians in order to distract their own internal political grumblings against a common enemy, as well as, hopefully, win the war to refill the republic's emptying coffers. For those who have read the previous two books in the series, there is little of surprise here. Honor and the surrounding cast remains the mostly the same. Her rise to power is still mistrusted by some and welcomed by others. Again, we expect Honor to be placed in an untenable situation, and yet, somehow, she will win through (at great cost) and be rewarded with more promotions (and hatred).
The first half of the book is scene setting and build up. Honor is returning to command, since her horrific injuries at the end of The Honor of the Queen
, and is rewarded with both title - she is now Dame Honor - and the newest flag ship of the Navy - Nike. Having reached almost exactly 50% (I'm reading an ebook edition), it suddenly dawned on my that nothing had really happened. Not only that nothing had happened, but that I hadn't noticed and I was still eagerly reading. Maybe nothing had happened, but that nothing had been pretty well written. I was looking forward to the second half delivering on all this promise.
Sadly, it doesn't. The second half of the book feels a bit rushed. There are at least three battles going on, however we only get any real detail on one of them. Admittedly that's the battle with Honor in it, but the other two could have been interesting as well. Instead they are explained away with a brief section of self-remonstrating by the Havenite captains heading home with their tails between their legs. With that in mind, if you're going to concentrate on the battle that Honor is in at the expense of the others, why not actually make her a more central character in that battle. She feels to have been reduced to more of a bit-player in this book than the previous two.
While so much of military science fiction tends to have quite dictatorial politics, the almost lazy, and stereotypical, representation of the communist People's Republic of Haven as greedy, ill-educated, in-fighting, political players who will stop at nothing to gain power. I'm sure there will be exceptions, but we haven't seen them yet. Compared against the honourable (forgive the pun) Royalist Manticorians, with their strict codes of ethics and more trusting forms of power and government. There are exceptions - Lord Young the rapist being the prominent example. The obvious divisions of a 'good' society and a bad 'society' just seem a little lazy. That said, some of the political intrigue in the Havenite Republic are quite good fun to read.
The final 5% of the book is some kind of beginning of an Honorverse appendix - Honor Harrington's Navy
. In it Weber describes some of the detail of the naval ships, technologies and relative fleet sizes of the Manticorian and Havenite fleets. It felt very 'tacked on' to me. I suspect that Weber had received a number of questions from readers and decided the easiest way to answer them was to rewrite some of his notes as an appendix. The information provided seemed to fall into two camps though - stuff I'd already worked out from reading the books (how impeller wedges affected the battle tactics) - and stuff I just didn't care about (average tonnage of a Manticorian or Havenite battle cruiser).
The book promised so much, and ultimately didn't live up to it's own hype. Throughout the first half it was going to be a solid 4, but the second half just seemed to slowly drag it down to a 3 that could have been so much more. I didn't hate any of it at all, but I think the book let itself down somewhat in the end.