We’re skipping a few Honour Harrington books here to review book four in the series, Field of Dishonor. I should mention, I’m not skipping The Honour of the Queen or The Short Victorious War because I don’t like those books, but for me, Field of Dishonor is quite an important book and provides us with a greater insight into Manticorian culture – as well as Honor as a person.
The start of the book deals with the immediate aftermath of the events of The Short Victorious War, where an act of cowardice leads to avoidable casualties in battle, and Honor finds herself fighting an internal battle against a very personal enemy. She effectively humiliates a man who wronged her in the past, with the consequence that she angers a politically influential family within Manticorian society. By this point, she has already begun to polarise the opinions of her commanding officers (some regard her as a great officer, others feel she is reckless and untrustworthy), and Honor soon finds herself confronting a painful personal loss, and facing an overwhelming desire for revenge, despite knowing the political implications of where that desire might lead.
In the end, I couldn’t help but sympathise with Honor greatly. She doesn’t do anything wrong, but is nevertheless the subject of a personal vendetta by a man who hates her (and whom she hates). She faces orders from her superiors that are politically motivated but she sees those orders as unfair and unjust. She is put through a great deal of pain, for more than one reason, and through it all, it shines through to me that Honor is a determined person, not prepared to let those who wrong her get away with it, and damn the personal (and especially the political) consequences. I couldn’t help but root for her, even though I knew her choices were potentially quite reckless .David Weber is also keen to ensure we feel little sympathy for the villain of the story. He is offered few (if any) redeemable features, presented as pompous, arrogant and cowardly. He is everything that Honor isn’t.
We learn that Manticorian society (already established as a constitutional monarchy) is quite in favour of equality, but unfortunately, there are elements of the nobility who are very much elitist and snobbish. These elements stretch to the military, forming some of the political enemies that Honor has to deal with, despite her own disdain for politics. We also get to see the practice of dueling in action (seen as archaic to some, but an element of Manticorian life that isn’t going anywhere).
One of the things I enjoy about this book is the ‘lived in’ feel. People argue, they go out to dinner, they worry about money and they aren’t perfect.
A thoroughly entertaining read!