Take one of my favorite writers and give him license to contribute to the phenomenally successful Honor Harrington series, and what do you get? You get Eric Flint working with David Weber on the short-stories-turned-novels, Crown of Slaves and Torch of Freedom.
Do you like space opera? How about great characters engaged in spy games and intrigue? Or maybe true badasses going up against incredible odds? All of them? Good. I’ve got some books to recommend to you.
These are stories in the Honor-verse which don’t focus on Honor Harrington. Rather than being so closely tied to grand neo-napoleonic space-navy battles, these books tell the tale of the background conflict with Mesa, Manpower, and a whole host of other background actors. Honor shows up briefly in each, but the other characters dominate the stage. And rightly so.
The books truly feel like a meshing of the styles of Flint and Weber; if you’re already familiar with either of them, you may be able to tell when they pass off writing control to each other. And as you might expect from well-established and much-loved authors, they are very good at what they do. The characters are well written and convincingly consistent, while the story cycle is wonderfully executed. Much like with David Drake’s books that I reviewed earlier, you can expect to see excellent figurative use of the hero’s journey, as well as a mastery of handling a complex series of stories nested alongside each other to create a larger narrative.
On the topic of styles again… I’m fully aware of the idiosyncrasies of Flint’s writing style; at this point I have read the majority of his work, if not nearly all of it. If you don’t like his style, these books have the fortune of being slightly different by virtue of being collaborations. But you’ll still be able to notice the moments when Flint really comes across in the writing. They kind of jump out at you once you’ve learned to recognize his particular voice. Small-animal-confronting-large-animal analogies, particular habits of conversational framing or thought patterns, they’re all in there. At this point, I’ve come to regard those peculiarities of style as a comforting constant rather than any sort of drawback.
There is one rather confusing note in all of this: for an avid reader of the 1632 series, having there be a Baron Grantville in the Honor-verse makes deciphering whether Eric Flint has mistakenly transposed a word or is just referring to a member of the nobility somewhat difficult. I’m not going to read back through the book just to find out whether there was a failure of reading comprehension on my part or simply a writing mistake, but there were certainly two or three times when I thought that Flint and Weber had transposed Grantville for Manticore. As misunderstandings go, it isn’t so bad. If it is a transposition, it’s even understandable given the tremendous number of books that Flint writes. But I found it quite amusing and occasionally a bit distracting.
In conclusion, these are excellent books. They are especially worth reading if you like Eric Flint or David Weber’s other books. If you like intrigue and action with a dash of neo-napoleonic space opera for a backdrop, look no further. I’m already looking forward to the next book.