Field of Dishonor by David Weber

Field of Dishonor is the fourth Honor Harrington novel, following on from On Basilisk Station, The Honor of the Queen and The Short Victorious War. I have been thoroughly enjoying these books (as you can see from my previous reviews) and I’ve got to the point where I am actively looking to read an Honor Harrington book before other ones I have sitting on the reading stack at home. That’s quite a statement as far as I’m concerned, especially looking at some of the other books waiting to be read!

field-of-dishonorAfter the events of The Short Victorious War Honor Harrington and the Nike are on their way back to the Manticore home system for repairs, reassignment and the court martial of one Lord Pavel Young for cowardice in the face of the enemy for his actions during the final minutes of the battle at Hancock Station. A mere formality, or so it seems. However, the political situation in the Manticore government is at a critical point with no clear majority able to vote in favour of the war, and with Young’s father a prominent figure in the groups opposing all-out war against the People’s Republic of Haven, this court martial couldn’t have come at a worse time. Add to that the history between Honor and Young and the media are having a field day, while the politicians using it as leverage in the current crisis.
What seems like a certain death sentence for Young turns into something nobody could have guessed. Disgracefully dismissed from the Navy and left with his life, his father dies and he inherits the North Hollow estate and a seat in Lords. Armed with his fathers file of dirty secrets on other Lords, Young manoeuvres himself into a prime position, backing the Navy’s request to declare war and forcing others allied to him to follow suit. It takes everyone by surprise, but Young is full of anger and rage towards Honor Harrington and this is merely his first step in a larger plan to see her get what he believes she deserves…

Now, I really have enjoyed the previous Honor Harrington novels. I liked the setting, the characters and the military aspect of it. The space battles were great, the descriptions and terminology bringing them to life. Field of Dishonor has no space battles at all. I did suspect this would be the case early on and worried where things would be going. Well, the place they went was even better than the previous novels – Field of Dishonor is a character focused story that does more to flesh out Honor Harrington than the three previous novels combined.

What we have here is a clearly political novel that looks at how certain actions during war time can have completely different results simply because of the tension and situation. While it is made clear during all the meetings and court sessions regarding Pavel Young that it must be dealt with evenly and without prejudice, it is clearly not going to be the case and the repercussions of the history between Young and Harrington are a small, but very vital, part of the trail.

It’s this history and subsequent actions throughout Field of Dishonor that made this book such a hugely enjoyable read, allowing the small threads and build up over the past three novels to fully develop here. Pavel Young is not a character I like at all, but I fully appreciate how he contributes to the novel and overall storyline. Harrington, on the other hand, is a character I very much enjoy reading, and this novel is all about her. It brings her to life more than the previous novels have done, put her in a personal situation that makes her question everything she knows and prepares to give it all up for personal vengeance.

I really don’t want to talk about the story in great detail here, or the characters for that matter, because a lot of what I’d talk about revolves around an aspect of the novel that I think is a pretty large spoiler. Suffice to say that this is a very good book – the strongest Honor Harrington one so far – and leaves the ending open to plenty of possibilities. It’s also one that has changed my expectations for the next in the series, and the series as a whole. This is some truly great stuff.

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