by David Weber
Review by Ernest Lilley
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 074349881X
Date: 01 April, 2005 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Whether or not you've slogged across the wastes of Marduk with Prince Roger MacClintock and his band of Royal Marines and assorted four armed native recruits, feel free to jump in at this point as the action shifts from getting back from the planet Marduk where he and his marines were stranded and getting to the root of the problem back on Earth where conspirators have taken over the government, and blamed the coup on him, knowing that his ship had been rigged to explode, taking an incidental heir to the throne out of the picture.
Prince Roger was always a pretty useless playboy, vid-star sort of guy, clearly not cut out for the throne his mother the Queen sat on, and content with that lot. In truth, even the queen wasn't all that sure about where his loyalties really lay anyway, so she sent him off to the backside of beyond to do a little peacekeeping for the Empire of Man. The Empire, incidentally, had known 3000 years of more or less harmony under the rule of the MacClintock family, but there are those that would rather have the job themselves.
Having escaped from Marduk in a captured spaceship Roger and his friends need to find a way to conduct operations within Capital City on Earth itself and time to figure out how to rescue the Queen, being held in check by drugs and less savory methods. Identities are easy to conceal, thanks to body and gene mod technology...but intents are harder to mask...at least until they hit upon the scheme of opening up a Mardukian Restaurant, complete with authentic (and deadly) savage beasts and warriors. From this base they can seek out the retired members of the Queen's guard and enlist their help, or so they hope, and Roger the Prince turned Restaurateur soon finds himself in charge of a main course of mayhem, intrigue, and revenge...all served up hot.
Too hot for some. Though Roger started out as a punk and grew into his role as military commander and future emperor, he's developed a nasty habit of killing anyone standing between him and his goal. For the past three books that meant almost exclusively killing four armed aliens trying to keep him from getting back to the spaceport and then home, but now it means citizens of the Empire, and someone has to keep his fuel rods from going critical.
That someone is Sergeant Nimashet Despreaux, a tall brunette who started out as a farm girl who went off to join the marines and wound up falling in love with the Prince. She's got her own hang-ups, like really, really not wanting to be Queen, and hence dragging her heels to the altar, but when she's around, Roger is more likely to negotiate first and lop heads off second, instead of the other way around.
As if setting up a classy foreign food joint in the capital and plotting to overthrow the government isn't enough to worry about, Roger discovers that he's got "insurance company" problems with the local mob, who wants a cut of all the money that's flowing through the restaurant. The mob figures its some money laundering operation, or a front for some other criminal activity, and they feel left out. So Roger finds himself fighting a two front war, and badly in need of allies. Unfortunately, every one who remembers him from before the coup remembers that he was pretty worthless, and though the winners of the coup are clearly the bad guys, it will take a lot to convince anyone that Roger and his crew are the good guys. Fortunately, they've been through a lot, and they took pictures to show the folks back home.
By the way, if you like Space Naval engagements, the authors have packed plenty for you to enjoy in here as the fleet factions between the coup leaders and the rightful heir. In space, no on can hear you die...and in ship-to-ship warfare, many will.
My only real complaint about the book is that I'd rather the authors had left out some stuff about controlling the Queen through "sexual" devices. It's icky, over the top, and unneeded. I'd much rather they'd made her fall artificially in love with the bad guy who plotted the coup and blind to reason. But they didn't. There's not a lot, and its not graphic, but it would keep me from recommending this to a YA reader.
The fight to the throne is bloody, of course, and costly, naturally, and fun for those of us who can watch the action from the safety of this side of the pages. Does Roger rescue the Queen? If you've any doubt, then you clearly didn't read the other books. If they do rescue her, will she be in any shape to rule again? That's a better question.
We Few stands alone better than most of the books in this series, though it's not hard to get up to speed on this sort of adventure. When it's all over there are plenty of loose ends left to tie up to keep the series going for at least another book, if not more.