Top positive review
A lesser book in the series, still a good military sf novel
on January 13, 2003
Hmm, I nearly fell into the trap of comparing this book with the others in the series, which are easily superior to this one. That is not the issue, though, what matters is: how good is THIS book considered on its own? Again, we find the Tanith First embroiled in a conflict in which they are forced to follow asinine orders which do not use their abilities appropriately. In this manner, Abnett subjects them to one of the more antiquated forms of combat, that being trench warfare as in World War I, with chemical weapons in use. While antiquated with respect to their usual mode of combat (something mentioned explicitly several times), it is occurring on a planet for which that is the level of development. Also, they are constrained to follow the orders of the planetery officials in prosecuting the war. More of that hell that is war, it seems.
Little progress is made in advancing the characters from the state they occupied at the end of the previous novel. It seems almost like Abnett hit a length limit and simply stopped the book, making this novel almost a brief transition in the series. There is more mysticism like that used in Honor Guard, which seems basically to foreshadow something in the next book. The really likable characters do well, though as before a lot of them get shot up. There is one REALLY unlikable character who again comes through (in Guns of Tanith he murdered one of the major characters in the regiment), it seems to me, simply to have a villain in the ranks (nevermind that there are already several who hate the commander, Gaunt; I guess we needed someone for the regular ranks to battle).
All in all, this is the weakest book yet in the series. It does serve well, though, in introducing new readers to the present state of the characters and the setting. Given that this is the sixth in the series, perhaps he and the editors felt such a book was called for. The ending is pretty unsatisfying, since, as I mentioned, this book seems to be simply a setup for the next book. The writing, though, is very well done, in terms of describing the atmosphere and emotions of those in the trenches or in the no-man's-land. Mixing conflict, humor, suspense, sacrifice, triumph and tragedy, Abnett still delivers a great read.