At All Costs
by David Weber
Review by Drew Bittner
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 1416509119
Date: 25 October, 2005 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In At All Costs, David Weber continues the saga of his uber-heroine, Honor Harrington. As the story opens, Manticore is reeling from a massive military defeat brought about by incompetent and corrupt politicians. The kingdom's navy lost a large number of ships under construction, so that Haven appears certain to enjoy a growing military advantage for years to come. As Honor and her comrades contemplate the dangers they face, Honor's personal life undergoes a radical transformation.
The secrecy around her affair with Hamish Alexander (Earl White Haven) is coming apart. Combined with some unexpected personal developments, her choices come down to how they can go public...and the resolution is indeed unexpected.
At the same time, Haven President Eloise Pritchart is finding that rogue elements of her own government appear to have re-started the war with Manticore for their own ends. Her team can find no reason for this--unaware that Manpower, a corporation of interstellar genetic slavers, is playing a key role in this conflict.
The villains employ a diabolical technique to make unsuspecting pawns into assassins, deploying them against a number of targets, including Honor herself. She is forced to kill, after one of her trusted armsmen is gunned down, and feels the regret keenly. She also reassigns her longest-serving armsman to a new and very special duty. The effect of the assassinations, however, is devastating far beyond Honor's own circle of friends; incurring the wrath of Queen Elizabeth, the stage is set for a resumption of hostilities.
Honor's task is making rapid attacks deep inside Havenite space. The assaults go well, at first, but the Havenites have a nasty surprise of their own...and the Manticore home system will see an attack in overwhelming strength. Honor's own Eighth Fleet may be the only thing between Manticore and the Star Kingdom's absolute defeat.
Weber weaves together a complex, multi-layered tale of political intrigue and military action-adventure on the one hand, and intimate joys, sorrows and victories on the other. Honor is tested in entirely new ways, and new aspects of her personality come to the fore. Always shown as a naval commander first, she is less certain when there is no clear cut enemy to strike, and when her enemies may not be in the wrong. Doubt and distrust play a significant role in this story, where Honor's instincts have never been so challenged.
If there's one down side, it would be that Honor resolves the military problem rather easily. There are painful losses, as long-time supporting characters leave the stage, but the final resolution is surprisingly abrupt.
Weber continues to excel in this exacting genre, though the book's near-900 pages make it a marathon rather than the "sprinting" reads of earlier Harrington novels. Chalk it up to the complexity of the story he's telling. Fans of the Honorverse will be rewarded with this rich addition, though newcomers might find it difficult to keep the myriad characters straight.