Title: The Honor of the Queen
Author: David Weber
Release Date: August 2002
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Right Woman, Wrong PlaceThe Honor of the Queen is the second book by David Weber featuring Honor Harrington, Captain in Her Majesty's Royal Navy of Manticore. The first book, On Basilisk Station, was one I very much enjoyed when I read it a few months ago and with the series running to over a dozen books to date, plus side novels, I was very interested to see where the story would go from the end on that first novel. I've made the mistake in the past of letting more time than optimal pass between series instalments, especially those that are already in the shops, and it was not a mistake I planned to do with the Honorverse. Thankfully so too, On Basilisk Station was fresh enough in my mind for me to thoroughly get drawn in with the characters once again!
It's hard to give a chance when the other side regards war as the necessary prelude to conquest, and a sneak attack as the best means to that end. That's why the Kingdom of Manticore needs allies against the so-called "Republic" of Haven-and the planet Grayson is just the right strategic place to make a very good ally indeed. But Her Majesty's Foreign Office had overlooked a "minor cultural difference" when they chose Honor Harrington to carry the flag: women on the planet Grayson are without rank or rights: Honor's presence is an intolerable affront to every male on the planet.
At first Honor doesn't take it personally; where she comes from gender discrimination is barely a historical memory, right up there in significance with fear of the left-handed. But in time such treatment she receives from the Graysonites does become wearing, and Honor would withdraw if she could-but Grayson's fratricidal sister planet attacks without warning and prevail, not just for Honor's honor, but for her sovereigns, for The Honor of the Queen.
With her new cruiser, Fearless, Honor Harrington is assigned to a diplomatic mission to Grayson, a planet of strategic importance to both Manticore and the People's Republic of Haven due to its location relative to each of their borders. Grayson and its neighbouring system Masada have a long and tumultuous past, both religious although the latter was so extreme that they were cast out from Grayson, and the wars have been fought ever since with Masada intent on reclaiming what they believe to be their right: the planet Grayson. But the inhabitants of Grayson are no less fierce in their beliefs, mainly that a woman's place is not in public, and especially not in the military. With Honor the leading military officer on this mission the political figures from Manticore have a lot of prejudice to overcome...
After I read On Basilisk Station I thought David Weber had created an excellent setting for a story, it was rich, varied and held a lot of potential. The Honor of the Queen took that initial seed planted in the first book and expanded it greatly, showing just how vast it is and how much more there was to the Kingdom of Manticore and the People's Republic of Haven. Without a doubt the setting is the strongest aspect of The Honor of the Queen simply because of how well Weber has detailed everything within. It's quite outstanding and shows just what can be done with some good world building.
But world building isn't the be-all-and-end-all of a novel, there has to be substance to the characters and story. Fortunately Weber hits the mark again on both those counts. The story is intricate, detailed and full of surprises, the characters unique, likeable and interesting. So, an all around thumbs up!
One of the main focuses in The Honor of the Queen is the distinct religious views held by both Grayson and Masada. While Honor is only in the Grayson system we do see the fanatical views of the Masadan's through various points of view throughout the story. As for Grayson, it's interesting to see just how varied the response is to Honor, from the leader of Grayson who was educated off-planet and is nowhere near as bad as the rest of the population, to the regular members of the Grayson military and the way they treat all female members of the Manticoran Navy. This leads to some interesting situations, but Weber manages to handle it rather well. When everything finally hits the fan some of the mentalities on show do change, but it's interesting to see how they do so and the effect it has on the planet as a whole. There is also the other side of the coin, the Masadan's. These are people that are so fanatical that nothing stops them doing what they believe to be right, and this results in some emotional and hard-hitting scenes. This whole issue could have been dealt with with a heavy hand, but Weber manages to convey everything well, he makes it relatable from most sides and the advancement of the story is handled well.
As for the characters, we've once again got an excellent lead with Honor Harrington, but also her colleagues and subordinates start to shine through. The people of Grayson are interesting, the Masadan's equally so as the bad guys, but even the officers from the People's Republic of Haven that we meet are not as totally despicable as I was expecting. There's a good range here and all work well together, enough that I found myself being carried along with the story yet again.
It's fair to say that after The Honor of the Queen I'll be picking up the next Honor Harrington book pretty soon. In fact, I plan on getting up to date with the series by the release of A Rising Thunder in March of next year. As you read this I've already finished the third book in the series, so that leaves me with 13 more to read to get up to speed. Very, very doable!