Review: Does David Weber's new novel honor Harrington?

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

His long-running Honor Harrington series has made SF writer David Weber a New York Times-bestselling author. But he has written numerous novels set outside the "Honorverse," and has recently launched a new series set on the lost colony world of Safehold. The Safehold novels are Off Armageddon Reef, By Schism Rent Asunder, and now, By Heresies Distressed.

For over 800 years, Safehold has been dominated by the ruthlessly anti-technological Church of God Awaiting. But one of the original posthuman settlers has revived, and is seeking to restore Safehold's memory and technology. Known as Merlin Athrawes, he advises King Cayleb and, wherever possible, uses advanced technology in their struggle against the all-powerful church, which has kept Safehold at an Age of Sail level of development. But even as King Cayleb forges an empire, the church conspires to destroy him by destroying the woman he loves.

A far-future military/political thriller, By Heresies Distressed has a convoluted plot. Combine that with its status as the third book in the series, and By Heresies Distressed is absolutely not the place for newcomers to start. The viewpoint shifts among numerous characters as the narrative cuts among numerous subplots, and the opening is static, consisting largely of conversation for the first near-200 pages. But when battle finally breaks out, wow! The novel gets intensely exciting, and you discover why David Weber's books are such a hit.

Series fans should know that By Heresies Distressed has more land battles than sea. It resolves its storyline, but introduces some intriguing new developments toward the end. Clearly, there will be a further volume or several before the stirring Safehold saga concludes.