By Heresies Distressed (Safehold Series #3)

( 170 )


Now the battle for the soul of the planet Safehold has begun.

The Kingdom of Charis and the Kingdom of Chisholm have joined together, pledged to stand against the tyranny of a corrupt Church. The youthful Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm has wed King Cayleb of Charis, forging a single dynasty, a single empire, dedicated to the defense of human freedom. Crowned Empress of that empire, Sharleyan has found in Cayleb's arms the love she never dared hope for in a "marriage of state." In ...

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Now the battle for the soul of the planet Safehold has begun.

The Kingdom of Charis and the Kingdom of Chisholm have joined together, pledged to stand against the tyranny of a corrupt Church. The youthful Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm has wed King Cayleb of Charis, forging a single dynasty, a single empire, dedicated to the defense of human freedom. Crowned Empress of that empire, Sharleyan has found in Cayleb's arms the love she never dared hope for in a "marriage of state." In Cayleb's cause, his defiance of the ruthless Group of Four who govern mother Church, she has found the task to which she can commit her mind and her courage. It is a cause for which she was born.

Yet there are things Sharleyan still does not know. Secrets Cayleb has not been permitted to share, even with her. Secrets like the true story of humanity on Safehold. Like the intricate web of lies, deception, and fabricated "religion" which have chained humanity for almost a thousand years. Like the existence of the genocidal alien Gbaba, waiting to complete mankind's destruction should humans ever attract their attention once more. Like the existence of a young woman, Nimue Alban, nine hundred years dead, whose heart, mind, and memories live on within the android body of the warrior-monk she knows as Merlin.

And so Empress Sharleyan faces the the great challenge of her life unaware of all that task truly entails...or of how the secrets the man who loves her cannot share may threaten all they have achieved between them...and her own life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In King Cayleb of Charis, Chisholm's young Queen Sharleyan has found not only the love of her life but also her monarch she will wed to unite two kingdoms. With that marriage comes a vital new purpose; the challenge to forever rid a repressive church of its domination and corruption. Sharleyan's commitments are real, but at first she pursues them not knowing long-held secrets that will imperil her honest quest for human freedom. In the third volume of David Weber's Safehold series, the battle for the soul of the planet is truly joined.

A superb cast of characters and plenty of action...This fine book gives new luster to Weber's reputation.
Publishers Weekly

In this tangled follow-up to 2008's By Schism Rent Asunder, the corrupt Church of God Awaiting has ruthlessly suppressed technology on the planet Safehold for the past 800 years. Merlin Athrawes, a cybernetic avatar bodyguard serving the king of Charis, has introduced a sequence of innovations that allow the united island kingdoms to defeat the Church's agents, but the Church's rulers soon adopt the very technology they proscribe. Their greater resources, combined with a fanatical fifth column not averse to assassination, make the long-term prospects of the "heretical" empire appear bleak, especially as Charis must pause to pacify new territories while responding to recent massacres. The personalities and motivations of the numerous characters are particularly well drawn and credible, and Weber makes grand strategies and political machinations easily accessible to casual readers. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

For political reasons-but also with genuine love and respect-Cayleb of Charis and Sharleyan of Chisholm have united as corulers of their lands. Now the Temple Lands, home to a reactionary Church that suppresses new technologies, must intervene or face a rebellion that could lead to their overthrow. Set in the distant world of Safehold (e.g., Off Armageddon Reef), Weber's new generational saga follows Cayleb, Sharleyan, and the Artificial Personality Merlin Athrawes as they try to convince their subjects that everything they know and believe is wrong. The popular author of the Honor Harrington series writes skillfully about naval battles and political intrigue, serving up another fascinating chapter in an sf epic with medieval trappings. Series fans will demand.

—Jackie Cassada
Kirkus Reviews
Weber (At All Costs, 2007, etc.) delivers the third installment in his ongoing Safehold saga. In the first two books, the planet Safehold was colonized by the last remnants of humanity, fleeing an Earth destroyed by aliens. They forged a society dominated by religion, to prevent the building of new technology that might attract the alien threat. Dissenters, however, created a cybernetic being, Merlin, who awakened some 800 years later and helped the nonconforming kingdom of Charis develop technology and fight against the powerful Church of God Awaiting. In this volume, Charis and its allies battle Corisande, a Church-assisted princedom. Like its predecessors in the Safehold series, the novel paints a vast, stunningly complex political and military tapestry, with wonderful battle scenes that compensate for occasionally overlong stretches of dialogue. Weber's portrayal of the Church and criticism of organized religion also continue to make these books interesting. That said, readers shouldn't pick up this volume without first reading Off Armageddon Reef (2007) and By Schism Rent Asunder (2008); the glossary and list of characters bringing newbies up to speed spans 15 pages. Initiates will be more than satisfied by this ambitious fantasy variant on the timeworn tale of a monolithic world institution challenged by reformers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765353993
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 3/2/2010
  • Series: Safehold Series, #3
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 202,328
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David Weber

David Weber is a science fiction phenomenon and the author of the Safehold series, including Off Armageddon Reef, By Schism Rent Asunder, and A Mighty Fortress. His popular Honor Harrington and Honorverse novels--including Mission of Honor, At All Costs, and Torch of Freedom--are New York Times bestsellers and can't come out fast enough for his devoted readers. His other top-selling science fiction novels include Out of the Dark, the Dahak books and the Multiverse books, written with Linda Evans. He has also created an epic SF adventure series in collaboration with John Ringo, including We Few. His novels have regularly been Main Selections of the Science Fiction Book Club. Weber has a bachelor's degree from Warren Wilson College, and attended graduate school in history at Appalachian State University. He lives in South Carolina.

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Read an Excerpt


The Temple, City of Zion, The Temple Lands

The snow outside the Temple was deep for October, even for the city of Zion, and more fell steadily, thickly, only to be whipped into mad swirls by the bitter wind roaring in off Lake Pei. That wind piled thick slabs of broken lake ice on the bitterly cold shore, swept dancing snow demons through the streets, sculpted knife-edged snowdrifts against every obstruction, and chewed at any exposed skin with icy fangs. Throughout the city, its poorest inhabitants huddled close to any source of warmth they could find, but for far too many, there was precious little of that to be had, and parents shivered, watching the weather—and their children—with worry-puckered eyes as they thought about the endless five-days stretching out between them and the half-forgotten dream of springtime’s warmth.

There was no cold inside the Temple, of course. Despite the soaring ceiling of its enormous dome, there weren’t even any chilly breezes. The structure reared by the archangels themselves in the misty dawn of Creation maintained its perfect interior temperature with total disdain for what the merely mortal weather of the world might be inflicting upon its exterior.

The luxurious personal suites assigned to the members of the Council of Vicars were all magnificent beyond any mortal dream, but some were even more magnificent than others. The suite assigned to Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn was a case in point. It was a corner apartment on the Temple’s fifth floor. Two entire sides of its main sitting room and dining room were windows—the miraculous, unbreakable, almost totally invisible windows of the archangels’ handiwork. Windows which were completely transparent from within, yet flashed back exterior sunlight like mirrored walls of finely burnished silver, and which were utterly impervious to the heat—or cold—which passed through and radiated from windows of mortal glass. Paintings and statuary, all chosen with a connoisseur’s exquisite discernment, added their own luxurious beauty to the suite’s interior, with its thick carpets, indirect, sourceless lighting, and perfect temperature.

It was far from the first time Archbishop Wyllym Rayno had visited the Grand Inquisitor’s personal chambers. Rayno was the Archbishop of Chiang-wu in the Harchong Empire. He was also the Adjutant of the Order of Schueler, which made him Clyntahn’s executive officer within the Office of Inquisition. As a result, Rayno was privy to far more of Clyntahn’s innermost thought than anyone else, including his colleagues among the Group of Four, yet there were places inside Clyntahn where even Rayno had never been. Places the archbishop had never wanted to be.

"Come in, Wyllym—come in!" Clyntahn said expansively as the Temple Guardsman always stationed outside his chamber opened the door for Rayno.

"Thank you, Your Grace," Rayno murmured, stepping past the guardsman.

Clyntahn extended his ring of office, and Rayno bent to kiss it, then straightened and tucked his hands into the voluminous sleeves of his cassock. The remnants of a truly enormous meal lay strewn in ruins across the large dining table, and Rayno carefully avoided noticing that there had been two place settings. Most vicars practiced at least some discretion when it came to entertaining their mistresses within the Temple’s sacred precincts. Everyone knew it happened anyway, yet there were standards to be maintained, appearances to be satisfied.

But Zhaspahr Clyntahn wasn’t "most vicars." He was the Grand Inquisitor, the keeper of Mother Church’s conscience, and there were times when even Rayno, who had served him for de cades, wondered exactly what passed through his mind. How the same man could be so zealous when it came to rooting out the sins of others even while he indulged his own.

Fair’s fair, Wyllym, the archbishop told himself. He may be a zealot, and he’s definitely self-indulgent, but at least he’s not hypocritical among his peers. And he does draw a remarkably sharp line between sins which are merely venal and those which constitute mortal offenses in the eyes of Schueler and God. He can be as irritatingly sanctimonious as anyone you’ve ever seen, but you’ve never heard him condemning any of his fellow vicars for weaknesses of the flesh. Spiritual weaknesses, yes; he can be utterly ruthless where they’re concerned, but he’s remarkably… understanding where those perquisites of high office are concerned.

He wondered who to night’s visitor might be. All of Clyntahn’s appetites were huge, and he craved novelty. Indeed, few women could hold his attention for long, and once his interest in them waned, he tended to turn to another with sometimes startling abruptness, although he was never ungenerous when he transferred his interest to another.

Rayno, as the Inquisition’s adjutant, was well aware that there were those within the Temple’s hierarchy who disapproved—in some cases, strenuously, if quietly—of Clyntahn’s addiction to the pleasures of the flesh. No one was likely to say so openly, of course, and Rayno had very quietly quashed a few reports of condemnatory comments before they ever reached the Grand Inquisitor’s ears. Still, it was only natural for there to be a certain . . . unhappiness. Some of it could probably be put down to pure envy, although he was willing to concede that there was genuine disapproval of such sensuality behind much of it. Indeed, there had been times when Rayno had found himself feeling much the same sort of disapproval. But the archbishop had concluded long ago, even before Clyntahn was elevated to his present office, that all men had flaws, and that the greater the man, the deeper his flaws were likely to run. If Clyntahn restricted his particular faults to the pursuit of fleshly plea sure, surely that was far better than what Rayno had observed in the occasional Inquisitor who found himself using the cover of his high office to indulge his own taste for unnecessary cruelty.

"Thank you for coming so promptly, Wyllym," Clyntahn continued as he ushered the archbishop to one of the Temple’s incredibly comfortable chairs. He smiled as he settled Rayno and personally poured him a glass of wine. The Grand Inquisitor’s normal table manners generally took second place—or even third—to the gusto he brought to food and wine, yet he could be an incredibly gracious and charming host when he chose to be. Nor was that charm false. It simply never occurred to him to extend it to anyone outside the circle of intimates he relied upon and fully trusted. Or, at least, trusted as much as he ever trusted anyone else.

"I realize your message didn’t seem to indicate any immediate urgency, Your Grace. I had business in the Temple to attend to anyway, however, so it seemed best to respond to your summons promptly."

"I only wish I had a dozen archbishops and bishops who were as reliable as you are," Clyntahn told him. "Langhorne! I’d settle for six!"

Rayno smiled and inclined his head in a small bow, acknowledging the compliment. Then he sat back, nursing his wineglass in both hands while he gazed attentively at his superior.

Clyntahn was looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the swirling snow and wind. His expression was almost rapt as he contemplated the icy torrent of white for the better part of three minutes. Then, finally, he turned back to Rayno and leaned back in his own chair.

"Well!" he said, with the air of someone getting down to business at last. "I’m sure you’ve read all the reports about the seizures of Charisian merchant ships month before last."

He arched one eyebrow slightly, an

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 170 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 170 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 23, 2010

    Number Three...

    Unlike most of Weber's books, this one *didn't* climax in a huge battle. And despite the fact that I *love* Weber's battles, this was still an wonderful book. It's book three of his Safehold series (don't read this without reading the prior two), and Weber is really hitting his stride with the characters, the world, and the situation that he's stuck them all in.

    As a one-sentence summary, By Heresies Distressed is essentially the post-wedding consolidation of the new Empire of Charis, and the conquest of Corisande.

    There are certainly *some* battle scenes, and *some* technological superiority going on, but this is primarily a book that tells a story of political drama. If you had told me that politics what what the book was about before I'd started, I would have had serious reservations about starting it. But the truth is that it was hard to put down. Weber did a fantastic job of connecting all the dots and making a real *story* about what was going on.

    I was very impressed, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next in the series.

    5 of 5 stars.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I wouldn¿t trust them with a broken-down draft dragon.  Book Thr

    I wouldn’t trust them with a broken-down draft dragon. 
    Book Three of the Safehold series continues to impress. David Weber is the only author I’ve found who successfully figured out how to get sci-fi into a medieval world. It’s not cheesy at all, it’s completely awesome, and every time Nimue Alban bursts into cybernetic action I couldn’t be happier. 
    I also enjoy the clever way the author found to tackle the subject of religion, an interesting take that I don’t think I’ve seen since Dune. I’m not sure how many of these books there are going to be, but count me in for the entire ride!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2012


    Ill get him!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2012

    lovin this series pt three


    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Visiting Safehold...again

    I love this series. The story line is complex as are the relationships and interactions between the characters. David Weber does an amazing job with space opera and this series demonstrates that he can transfer his expertise with technical and space battle to a marine and land setting. The complex interweaving of politics, social and industrial advances, and religous reformation is truly engaging. I devoured this book in two days and now will have to wait to see what happens next with Caleb, Merlin, and Charis.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    Waiting for the next installment....

    Great writer

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    Despite my surprise that this book did not end the series, (even though I should know better, David has a hard time writing something short.) I couldnt put it down. Just like the first two novels in the series, it was easy to get drawn into the story. I finished it in four days. Cant wait for the next book.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Weber has Another Winning Combination

    Again Weber has been true to form. Excellent development of plot and characters and couched within this is not just a little history in terms of the horrible abuses of religious systems run amuck that have plagued human history even unto today. This book has cemented the Safehold series into a must have acquisition and as a sobering reminder of what the institutions of faith and religion have; in terms of oppression, intolerance, self righteousness, and purely evil actions; and may again, become. The founders of this nation were extremely wise in placing a firewall between government and religion, in spite of the efforts by many to batter it down, even today.
    Due to previous character development and the manner in which it immediately rivets the readers' attention, this is the most enjoyable read of the three volumes to date. While it is not, as few of this author's works will ever be, touchy feely or in any real sense romantic, it is every sense as fast paced and intriguing a work as any he has done. The most intriguing aspect of this book and series is the reverse nature of the fictional society compared to the situation found with In Death Ground and The Shiva Option. The concept of a few select survivors of an annihilated species being hidden away for a future emergence is developed in the second book of that series. This makes for an interesting reversal of concept as it might apply to the destruction of humans by a superior military source. I'm very interested in the progression and ultimate outcome of this series and highly recommend it to any who have enjoyed previous works by this author.

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  • Posted September 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    David Weber hits it out of the park... again!

    Great book. One of the best series in SF right now, and done up to the standard of the Honor Harrington books (and maybe better). I've hammered some of the stuff David Weber's done that was crap, but this is definitely worthy of your dollars and time.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Hard to put down.

    The character development continues apace. The plot continues to interest. The management of the background information makes the characters and plot more and more grabbing.
    I lost a lot of sleep over this book. I went back and read the first two again in preparation and the story line continues seamlessly.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good, but definately a placeholder

    A good book, but it does not stand alone, nor would I expect it to. Lots of political intrigue, with a good bit of action as well, and much less of the "Deus ex machina" from Nimue/Merlin. I am waiting for the next one.

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  • Posted August 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    At last...

    David Weber is a busy guy -- he's got four serial novels running now, two in collaboration with other authors (Linda Evans for the Hell's Gate series, and Eric Flint for the Torch series). Maybe that's why we had to wait what seemed like a long time for this sequel to Off Armageddon Reef and By Schism Rent Asunder. It was almost long enough to make me go back and re-read the first two books; but it was worth the wait.

    Weber's classic style interweaves political machinations with military action, and gives us a rich field of characters who are NOT neatly divided between good and evil. As in most of his novels, many of the good guys have flaws, and many of the bad guys have redeeming qualities -- and some of them are only "bad guys" because they happened to wind up on the wrong side in a war.

    I got the impression that Weber is having fun with this series -- indulging his personal passion for military history (and obviously doing a LOT of research on the subject of ancient weaponry, tactics, etc.) and yet keeping what would otherwise be a military novel of the 17th or 18th century in the realm of Science Fiction by setting it on another planet and making one of his major characters an android with access to advanced technology (which, of course, must remain secret). There's also plenty of Weber's conservative philosophy here, but expressed in terms of nation-states rather than galactic empires.

    In the end, of course, you know who's going to win -- because Weber obviously believes in the triumph of Good over Evil; but it will, no doubt, be a painful process and victory will come at great cost for many of the characters.

    I won't bother to summarize. If you haven't read Off Armageddon Reef, you need to start there. If you have read it, you need to read By Schism Rent Asunder to get to this part of the story. If you have read those two, you are probably already hooked and will want to read this one anyway. Anway, the story isn't over yet. This book ends with many things unresolved, so there will have to be at least one more in the series.

    One thing unique about this series is Weber's use of character names that are simply weird spellings of common names of today (e.g. Zhaspar Clyntahn = Jasper Clinton). Weber's novels are usually populated by dozens of richly-developed characters, and this makes it a little more difficult to keep all of them straight -- I wonder if he got tired of inventing names and just went to the phone book and applied some creative phonetic spelling.

    Weber often treats us to character names from another world and time, a little tongue-in-cheek author's joke. Fans of his Honor Harrington series will remember Rob S. Pierre, the Chairman of Haven's Committee of Public Safety (like Robespierre of the French Revolution). Well, he's done it again in this novel: consider the Prince of Emerald, Nahrmann Baytz (Norman Bates -- of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho").

    When you write as well as Weber (and as MUCH as Weber), I guess you are entitled to a little secret joke now and then.
    P.S. -- If you like David Weber, my recommendations are the FIRST books in each of the four other major series he's done. If you choose On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington series -- my favorite), be prepared for a long read -- there are 11 novels in that series (and he may write another some day...)

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    David Weber does it again

    This series is more interesting than his Honor Harrington series. Though the third book in the series, it could easily stand alone as the start of a series. Mr. Weber gives enough background without boring the reader of the other two books in the series. When you finish reading it you are eager for the next book to come out. (Hurry up with it PLEASE?!)

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Dragging a little but still good

    This is a good 'next book' in the series but I feel the story is dragging a little.

    It is well written. I like the plot and characters. David Weber just tends to drag things out a bit and go into lengthy discussions and descriptions.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Good read

    The third installment continues a fun read. The characters continue to be fleshed out, and the story stays fresh. Recommend the series highly.

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Ongoing Safehold Saga: A Complex But Occasionally Off-putting Historical Fantasy

    This multilayered addition weaves a complex portrait of political intrigue/tactics and empire building, but that same complexity lessens the protagonists' roles and muddles reader sympathy. Multiple story lines become attenuated and jumbled in recounting the expansion of the Charisian empire to surrounding island nations. Previously unknown characters take leading roles during combat, and Caleb, assisted by Merlin, directs rather than fights battles. The primary characters become less important and less sympathetic. Technological and surveillance advantages cybernetic Merlin has given to Caleb/Charis causes empathy for the beleaguered and besieged opposing Corisande forces. Plus, the dubious morality of precipitating a global religious war without informing the populace of the ultimate necessity for rejecting the established and artificial church doctrine stifles enthusiasm for the Charisian cause and reduces the appeal of Caleb, Merlin and Merlin's inner circle. The phrase, "the ends don't justify the means..," comes to mind in the context of inciting war and causing countless deaths under the aegis of a sham religious reformation to jump start technological advancement through conflict and topple a corrupt but finite cabal of four church-leaders. Moreover, aided by overly formal and unnatural dialogue by Caleb and Sharleyan, an underlying smugness (assumed superiority) on the part of the protagonists emerges. In sum, this book comprehensively builds upon the ongoing saga of the Charisian Empire's religious rebellion, but pathos and intimacy are lost in the process. Similar to its predecessor, this book fails to utilized any futuristic concepts other than cybernetic Merlin and his surveillance/communication/transport technology. I recommend this book to any historical fantasy fan, but warn against reading it w/out first reading "Off Armageddon Reef" and "By Schism Rent Asunder."

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    Book flows smoothly from by shisims rent asunder to the next book in the series, what ever it is.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    Love this series

    Can't wait for each new book. Looks like a wonderful series shaping up.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Continues to build upon the story...

    If you've read other Weber series, you know that there always seems to be a book or two that focuses on advancing the storylines without much battle action. This one does have some combat, but not nearly the amount the previous two had. There are however, a couple of interesting plot lines and developments to keep your interest. Mother Church is working to build up to a Holy War...sounds vaguely like G.W. and his administration. Spin doctoring of the war and the politics has contemporary parallels. It's a good book, but a little light on both pages and combat. It appears that Weber is busy writing more than one series at a time, and this one has paid the price this time around. Now we have to wait (probably another year) for the next installment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    I am only halfway through, but if you are familiar with Weber's work, you can see the storm brewing. This is one of his better titles and deserves a good hour or two of reading every day (till finished)

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