The Great Honor Harrington Read Along is a read along led by me with critical analysis and SPOILER FILLED looks at the Honor Harrington series and related works by David Weber and collaborators. I’ve read the whole main series and the overwhelming majority of the offshoots, but some of these will still be first time reads. However, spoilers will be abundant throughout these posts, including for much later books in the series.
Field of Dishonor by David Weber
Field of Dishonor is probably the weirdest of the early Honor Harrington books in that it doesn’t have a big space battle and the action is all on the surface. The whole thing is a kind of character-building segment for Honor and a select few others. And yet, it works, somehow, so long as you don’t have to have that obligatory space battle in order to be satisfied.
Weber also peels back the curtain here to give us more knowledge of the inner workings of Manticore’s governmental system. It seems to be based on the United Kingdom’s system with a monarch, a House of Lords, and the Commons, a multi-party system in which coalitions must form to make governments, and more. Throughout the book, we get more and more looks at how those different factors intersect to make things as simple as declaring war on an aggressor nation that already attempted to destroy your nation more complex than it should be.
We also get a bit more background about Treecats, how they were discovered, and some of the history of that discovery–including the first mention I am aware of regarding Stephanie Harrington, a distant relative of Honor’s. Many, many characters who loom large later or before this are given cameos or more major appearances, such as Tomas Santiago Ramirez.
Now, to the meat. Pavel Young has friends in high places, and his family backing made it such that they would oppose the declaration of war if he’s court martialed. The admiralty board has quite a bit of politicking happening as they discuss Young’s fate, and it gives us more insight into how divisions within Manticore’s government run. Hemphill shows up here, too, as one of the members of the court martial, and her willingness to bend on some aspects gives us some hints at her character beyond the “Horrible Hemphill” we were introduced to in the first book.
Young gets a dishonorable discharge, which gives his father a fatal heart attack, ironically gifting Young with an Earldom the same time he got the discharge. It’s a kind of deus ex machina that nevertheless works to get Young elevated to a position of power. From the moment he rises to that position, it seems inevitable awful things will happen. And happen, they do. Denver Summervale’s back, and he’s hired by Young to kill Tankersley, shortly after we as readers start to really get settled in for the long haul with he and Honor together. It’s an almost unfair twist of fate, and the emotional turmoil it causes works because Weber invested no small amount of time telling us about Honor’s own self doubts in the books before this. I seem to remember the scenes of Honor’s mourning lasting much longer when I read the book the first time, but I think that’s just a matter of how invested I was in her mourning, too. That mourning is offset a bit by knowing what comes later, but it’s still a powerful character moment, and one during which you certainly sympathize with Honor.
The dueling system within Manticore is nonsensical to an extent. Why would they even continue to allow it? How is it possible, and how would there not be even more contracted killers like Summervale lurking out there? I think it starts to fall apart at the seams if you push it too hard, but that doesn’t take away from the whole thing working for the sake of plot throughout the book. If you can suspend disbelief about how and why they allow it and the inevitably ridiculous consequences that might come of it, it is a powerful way to have the whole Young plotline come to a head.
We also get our first real look at Honor interacting with her Grayson-ian power base, along with seeing she’s set up to make quite a good chunk of cash from investments there. I don’t think at this point I’d yet realized how absolutely major Grayson would be in the rest of the series, but due to my own investment in that plotline I was pleased to see it continuing. We also get LaFollet and the other Grayson armsmen and they become characters close to the reader’s heart almost immediately with how they defend Honor and LaFollet’s discussion of why they want to odo so.
Honor’s return to Manticore and forcing Summervale into challenging her is masterful, and I have to say the firing from the hip surprised me this round again. It’s been a while since I re-read this book and I forgot how she bested Summervale. It’s a cool scene that also makes it easier to believe that Honor could defeat a practiced duelist. The standoffs with Young culminating in her trapping him into a Duel are immensely satisfying scenes. Meanwhile, her interactions with Hamish Alexander are, we know, buildup for later. For now, though, they show how much he’s come to take her as a student under his wing.
We get to the end of the book at a surprising point. Honor is effectively disgraced not because she is disgraceful but because she’s so damned honorable and the politics of the world she serves didn’t let her get justice the way she should have. Dark is the wrong word to use here, but it’s a kind of look into the abyss of injustice of everything as she takes the punch on the mouth for her own actions seeking justice. And that’s where it leaves off: with Honor getting a talk about how it’s not over yet. And we very well know it’s not. Onward!
How about you? What did you think of the book? What were your highlights? Leave a comment and let’s discuss it more!
The Great Honor Harrington Read Along– Follow along as I read through and review all the books and offshoots in this series!
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