Midst Toil and Tribulation (Safehold)
by David Weber (Read by Peter Ganim)
Cover Artist: Stephen Youll
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Macmillan Audio Audio CD ISBN/ITEM#: 9781427226334
Date: 02 October 2012 List Price $74.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Zhaspyr Clyntahn has unleashed the forces of the Inquisition on the Republic of Siddarmark. The turmoil allows old scores to be settled guaranteeing continual escalation of atrocities. Sharleyen and Cayleb bring all of the resources of the Charisian Empire to help Lord Protector Greyghor.
Irys and Daivyn are safe in the arms of their new allies and saviors from Charis. Daivyn is recognized as the legitimate heir of Corisande. Irys is determined to protect her brother even as she begins to see Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk in a new light.
The pace of invention is increasing. New inventions allow Charis to offset the manpower advantage of the lands under the Church. The new processes and designs still need the blessing of the Church of Charis, so the increases must be incremental. The rapid advancement of Charis forces the Church to allow a looser interpretation of the strictures.
Merlin continues to find new ways to help the people of Safehold. He knows that he must carefully advance the world and prepare them to once again reach for the stars. His goal is the return of the scientific method and having people think on their own. This part of his plan is working well. People beyond the Empire are being forced to advance quickly as well in order to have a chance against the Charisian Empire. Although inconvenient to the war effort, he allows innovators in other lands to live and move advancement to the point where it will no longer be able to be suppressed by the Church.
Given time, there is no way that the Church will win, but time is limited. There is a promise of a return, and the time of the return draws near. The space based weapon platforms limit the ability of Merlin to push advances, but there are ways around electricity.
This series continues at a frantic pace. The action is escalating to bigger and bigger battles as Safehold is dragged towards a technological future. As in our world, warfare is the catalyst for advance. To survive, each side needs to find ways to offset the other side's advantage. The Charisian Empire has a technological advantage, but the Church has a huge population base. This is a little like Germany when it fought Russia.
As a reader, I enjoy technology advancement stories. This is most often done through time travel to the past. In this case it is almost time travel to the future. I like to refer to this series as 'Age of Sail Science Fiction'. It should appeal to readers that enjoy Horatio Hornblower, Richards Sharpe, as well as those that like the 1632 and the Honor Harrington series.
Kevin Collins is a new reader to the series. He did a credible job, although I miss some of the accents of Oliver Wyman. The audio version of this book is great for long trips. My wife and I love listening to this series on our longer trips. More than once we have reached the end of a CD and looked at each other in disbelief that an hour had passed. That is a sign of a good story and reader combination. The other thing is that I don't spend time stumbling over the correct pronunciation of some of the names in the series. I can't recommend starting with this book, but I highly recommend starting at the beginning and getting to this book.