The Shadow Of Saganami
From the cover of the book:
The Star Kingdom of Manticore is once again at war with the Republic of Haven after a stunning sneak attack. The graduating class from Saganami Island, the Royal Manticoran Navy's academy, are going straight from the classroom to the blazing reality of all-out war.
Except for the midshipmen assigned to the heavy cruiser HMS Hexapuma, that is. They're being assigned to the Talbott Cluster, an out of the way backwater, far from the battle front. The most they can look forward to is the capture of the occasional pirate cruiser and the boring duty of supporting the Cluster's peaceful integration with the Star Kingdom at the freely expressed will of eighty percent of the Cluster's citizens. With a captain who may have seen too much of war and a station commander who isn't precisely noted for his brilliant and insightful command style, it isn't exactly what the students of Honor Harrington, the "Salamander," expected.
But things aren't as simple -- or tranquil -- as they appear. The "pirates" they encounter aren't what they seem, and the "peaceful integration" they expected turns into something very different. A powerful alliance of corrupt Solarian League bureaucrats and ruthless interstellar corporations is determined to prevent the Cluster's annexation by the Star Kingdom . . . by any means necessary. Pirates, terrorists, genetic slavers, smuggled weapons, long-standing personal hatreds, and a vicious alliance of corporate greed, bureaucratic arrogance, and a corrupt local star nation with a powerful fleet, are all coming together, and only Hexapuma, her war-weary captain, and Honor Harrington's students stand in the path.
They have only one thing to support and guide them: the tradition of Saganami. The tradition that sometimes a Queen's officer's duty is to face impossible odds . . . and die fighting.
Although this is part of the world created for Honor Harrington, like Crown of Slaves, she barely comes into the storyline here. Don't let that put you off the story though. It's still an incredible read, and there are enough of the secondary characters from the main books to keep you connected.
The Honor Harrington books were the series to introduce me to the area of military science-fiction, and this book holds up the genre as well as the first ones, and the world still has lots of areas to explore - it just keeps expanding. The front cover of The Shadow of Saganami calls this the start to a whole new series. If that's the case, it looks to be a good one. The book kept me up past my bedtime again.
My only problem with this story is as much my fault as anything. It's set after/during the events of At All Costs (if my memory is correct), and I haven't read any of the books in the series for at least two years, possibly more, so I don't remember at least half of the references to earlier events. For example, I know that the character of Ginger Lewis is familiar, but who is she, and what happened to her? The same thing for Abigail Hearns. It's less of an issue for events from the earliest books for the most part, as I've read them a few more times.
Overall, that's the thing about David Weber's science fiction. He's created very detailed characters, worlds and political systems. Everything holds together very well with not too many "hey! that can't work" moments.
One thing that detracted from the story a bit for me, aside from not remembering some of the background references, is the sheer number of viewpoints Weber is writing from. I know that for a story of this scale, it's nearly impossible to show from just one or two, but still... By my count from memory, there's at least ten different viewpoints. It's something the author has done all through the series though, and part of what makes the world so real and detailed.
The next book is finally out now as well: Storm From The Shadows, and given that I'm only half way through at this point, I'd have to say that it's just as good, if not slightly better.