Book Review: A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Thomas Pope

March 9, 2018 Book Reviews 2

Book Review:  A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Thomas Pope

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Thomas Pope
Genres: Military Science Fiction
Published by Baen on March 6, 2018
Pages: 480
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: Cauldron of Ghosts, Treecat Wars, A Call to Duty, Hell's Foundations Quiver, At the Sign of Triumph, Cobra Outlaw

Third and last in the Manticore Ascendant science fiction military soap opera series, a prequel in the Honorverse, revolving around the kingdom of Manticore, as we follow the career of Lieutenant Travis Uriah Long, and introducing us to the start of Elizabeth II’s reign in 1544 PD.

My Take

Underhanded greed is what it’s all about. On both sides. What can I say, politics are involved. It does help that Weber/Zahn use third person omniscient point-of-view, and we know the thoughts and feelings of a number of characters from the self-righteous to the greedy to the patriotic.

It’s full of politicos with their pet projects and egos that need stroking — all the brouhaha over separate training facilities!? Why not have one facility that trains everybody? They’ll all be operating on ships. And at least half of them don’t really care about the nation they’re supposed to be representing. Then there are the bad guys with their lack of morals and greedy desires.

Sigh, it’s hard not to reflect on the original Honor Harrington stories and the fab equipment they have and compare it to the junk this under-equipped navy has in these early days. I do look forward to reading about Elizabeth’s changes.

There is a lot of bluffing going on with plenty of tension. Weber/Zahn make good use of the better ships of the navies surrounding them to point up how bad off the Royal Manticoran Navy is as well as demonstrating the changes Manticore is likely to make in future.

There’s definitely too much telling going on, and I wish Weber/Zahn had made Travis’ social ineptness more obvious along with his need for structure and discipline. His interaction with Lisa could have used more tension, although I guess Weber/Zahn figured they had enough tension going on. There could have been so much more, though, if Weber/Zahn had shown us how bad Mantie equipment was instead of merely telling us.

Weber/Zahn have made a try at giving us some backstory on the more obvious characters such as Clegg’s father and the pressure he was putting on her; Travis’ cold mother; and, how the Manticoran constitution evolved and why (that bit about oligarchies and marrying a commoner was quite inspired).

I hate Llyn. Well, okay, I’m supposed to hate him. And I really want the cocky bugger to get his comeuppance!

There were some tie-ups and revelations at the end — Weber/Zahn had been quite secretive about those seven names and purposely confusing. It’s that space-high cliffhanger that really makes me nuts. And scoff at the idea that this is the end.

The Story

After the disastrous attack on the Manticoran home system by forces unknown, the Royal Manticoran Navy stands on the brink of collapse. A shadowy enemy with the resources to hurl warships across hundreds of light years seeks to conquer the Star Kingdom for reasons unknown, while forces from within Manticore’s own government seek to discredit and weaken the Navy for reasons very much known: their own political gain.

It’s up to officers like Travis Long and Lisa Donnelly to defend the Star Kingdom and the Royal Manticoran Navy from these threats, but the challenge is greater than any they have faced before. Weakened but not defeated, the mercenary forces and their mysterious employer could return at any time, and the anti-Navy faction within Parliament is growing. The situation becomes even more dire when fresh tragedy strikes the Star Kingdom.

While the House of Winton faces their enemies at home, Travis, Lisa, and the other officers of the Royal Manticoran Navy must reunite with old friends and join new allies to hunt down and eliminate the forces arrayed against them in a galaxy-spanning conspiracy.

Manticore has learned that the universe is not a safe place, but the Star Kingdom’s enemies are about to learn a lesson of their own!

The Characters

The socially awkward Lieutenant Travis Uriah Long is a stickler for the regs AND a brilliant tactician aboard the HMS Casey. Melisande Vellacott Long is Travis and Gavin’s mother who is more concerned about her dogs than Travis. Miggles is one of her dogs.

Travis is friendly with Lieutenant Commander Lisa Donnelly who will become tactical officer aboard Damocles. Petty Officer Charles “Chomps” Townsend has a grudge against Travis and is in MPRS at the start of this story.

Manticore is…

…a tiny kingdom far from the Solarian League (what we think of as Earth). Landing City is the capital. King Edward is the son of the former King Michael who abdicated four years ago. Queen Consort Cynthia is Edward’s wife. They had two children: Crown Prince Richard and the wild Princess Sophie. Elizabeth Winton-De Quieroz is Edward’s half-sister and a widow. Her beloved husband, Carmichael, was killed in a hunting accident four years ago. Mary is Elizabeth’s mother and Michael’s second wife.

Aegis Force had…

…to be restructured. Janus Force had been destroyed.

HMS Casey is…
…captained by Commodore Rudolph Heissman; he’s replaced by Clegg for the Silesian Confederacy mission. Commander Alfred Woodburn is tactical officer and promoted to XO. Commander Beloka, the original XO, will be stuck at the Academy. Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Norris is in engineering. Lieutenant Sulini Hara and Chief Hira are on the com. Lukanov is the astrogator. Lieutenant Kojong Ip is the ATO. Heinrich Hauptman, assistant manager to Countess Barbara Acton who owns a shipbuilding company, joins the ship’s company.

HMS Damocles is…
…sent to Haven and captained by Captain Hari Marcello; Commander Susan Shiflett is the executive officer; Chief Wrenner; Commander Papadakis is the engineer; Chief Ulvestad and Lieutenant Vespasiano Guiccardini share the com. Spacer 2/c Huvoski is part of the crew. Spacer Third Class Belgrand had been caught in a blast. Lieutenant Commander Wanda Ravel is the new Tactical Officer. Lisa will be its new XO for the trip to Haven.

HMS Vanguard is…
…a battlecruiser, which is captained at the start by Captain Trina Clegg (she’s terrible with people), and serving as Rear Admiral Kyle Eigen’s flagship. The not particularly ept Commander Bertinelli, the ship’s XO, had hoped to become captain. Lieutenant McKenzie. Lieutenant Messner is on the com.

Perseus, a heavy cruiser, is commanded by Captain Pierre Conroy; Eriyne, a destroyer captained by Timberlake; Gryphon, a cruiser; and, Bellerophon, a cruiser, which is under Captain Stillman.

Red Force is…

…charged with protecting the planet Gryphon. HMS Victory is the flagship for Admiral Thomas Flannery. Captain Adelaide Meyers is Flannery’s flag captain. RMS Hyderabad is registered to a Samuel Tilliotson and chartered as a Navy transport with Captain Estelle O’Higgins in command. Lieutenant Slocum is one of her officers.

Ships that were destroyed during the Battle of Manticore include…

Phoenix, Gemini, Sphinx, Gorgon, and Hercules, the ship Crown Prince Richard Winton was on during the battle.

Admiral Carlton Locatelli’s flagship is Invincible; he’s also on Excellent. First Lord of the Admiralty Admiral (ret) Thomas P. Cazenestro is an advisor to King Edward. Admiral Dembinski is in charge of BuPers, the place careers go to die. Orpheus is a space station at which the navy’s ships dock. Commandant Allen Innes is in charge of the MPARS Academy. Two corvettes will be left behind as the System Reserve Force: Aries and Taurus on which Lieutenant Brian O’Higgins (Estelle’s son) is tactical officer. Petty Officer Jasmine Falcone is but one fatality. Commander/Captain Vincent Carpenter is the master chief. Captains Hardasy and Kostava are mentioned. Captain Allegra Metzger had been Travis’ XO on Guardian during the Secour Incident. The incompetent Karina Alexander, Admiral White Haven, has the HMS Nike as her flagship with Captain Ermolai Beckett in command.

The King’s Own security force includes…

…the obsessive Sergeant Robert Herzog, Major Blackburn, Major B.A. Felton, PFC Patricia Gauzweiller, Sergeant Sara Felton (B.A. is one of her cousins) and PFC Bridget Keating are two of the divers, Major Fergueson, and Colonel Petrov Jackson who is their leader. Adler and Penescu are Elizabeth’s bodyguards.

Archbishop Wallace Bradford is the archbishop of Landing; Rabbi Malcham Saltzman, Imam Acharya Hu-Jiang, and Guru Bagaskro Shrivastava are the other acknowledged spiritual leaders of Manticore. The new monarch will be crowned in the Catholic Landing Cathedral, a.k.a., King Michael’s Cathedral, that was built sixteen years ago. David will be the baby. Martine seems to be Elizabeth’s secretary. Lieutenant David Bozwell commands the CGC Jackstraw; it and Argus are patrolling the waters. The Sphinxian Sergeant Brian VanHoose is a big crewmember of the Jackstraw. The Happily Ever is a party boat owned by Basil Moore which is ordered off the water.

Prime Minister Davis Harper, Duke of Burgundy, is on the monarch’s side. Louisa Geary is his personal secretary. Minister of Defense James Mantegna, Earl Dapplelake, has Secretary of Bioscience Lisa Tufele, Baroness Coldwater, and Shipyard Supervisor John Garner, Baron Low Delhi, as allies.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Anderson L’Estrange, Earl Breakwater, schemes and manipulates to gather any and all glory to his pet project, the Manticoran Patrol and Rescue Service (MPRS). Gavin Vellacott, Baron Winterfall, is Breakwater’s aide (and Travis’ estranged half-brother). Breakwater’s secretary is Angela and his allies include First Lord of Law Deborah Scannabechhi, Duchess New Bern; Director of Belt Mining Carolynne Jhomper; Maria Stahlberg, Baroness Castle Rock; Ross Macinroy, Earl Chillon; and, Yvonne Rowlandson, Baroness Tweenriver.

Secretary of Industry Julian Mulholland, Baron Harwich, and Foreign Secretary Susan Tarleton are generally neutral. Adelaide Summervale, Duchess of Cromarty, and Kenneth Pavón, Speaker of the House of Commons, play a part in the coronation. Joshua Miller, a farmer from Friedman’s Valley, sits in the House of Commons as does the domineering Jacques Corlain, Placido Amadeo, and Sarah Tonquis of White Sand.

Special Intelligence Service (SIS) is…
…a newly formed spy agency intended to supplement the hidebound ONI. Clara Sumner, Countess Calvingdell, is its head and a former Minister of Defense who wants to rename it Delphi. Flora Taylor is the Gatekeeper.

The Samantha is the royal ship. Peter Young is the eldest son of Hardian Young, Earl North Hollow.

The Republic of Haven is…

…a neighboring star system with whom Manticore is on friendly terms. Their navy is cracking down on pirates. Brigadier Jean Massingill (Alvis is her husband) leads the 303rd Special Commando Assault Force, Expeditionary (SCAFE) with a team that includes Elsie Dorrman, who is very good in tricky situations; Frijtom; and, Sergeant DuMonde. Lieutenant Bastonge, the Team One commander, leads a 40-man platoon; Captain Danzer and Sergeants Gnoli and Cochran are also leaders. Corporal Rushkoff is their best-trained ship tech. The ship they’re using is RHNS Terrier. Ambassador-at-large Louis Joffre is an observer.

Commodore Gustave Charnay had been XO of Saintonge under Commodore Jason Flanders some years ago. Now Charnay will lead them into battle. Intrépide and Courageux are modern destroyers; Jocelyne Pellian and Jean-Claude Courtois are heavy cruisers. Hache de Guerre and Poignard will help with search-and-rescue operations. Admiral Dorvelle’s ships being repaired include Artois, Provence, and Poitu.

Daval Weissman is a representative of the Jerriais Consortium board, a major development group, building shipyards in Bergen. Floyd Koski is the consortium’s manager for Bergen 2. Solway has warehouses with corrupt employees. Greez Paco is a second assistant manager.

Danak is…

…close to the Republic of Haven, but a trading partner and not an ally. Dostoyevsky is the Jerriais operations manager. Charnay pretends to be the Secretary of Industry. Nelson is the president of Danak.

The Anderman Empire was…

…founded by Gustav Anderman, a very successful mercenary commander in the Solarian League. Now he’s emperor. The Hamman is an Andermani freighter and part of the empire’s Merchant Marine. Captain Charles Kane is its commander. Major Chien-lu Zhou is the director of Silesian Operations for Abteilung III (the Andermani Department of Intelligence). And Basaltberg’s son-in-law.

HMS Vergeltung is Admiral Gotthold Riefenstahl’s, Graf von Basaltberg‘s, flagship; its captain is Luitpold Huschens. The admiral commands the fleet tracking Gensonne. Commander Anholt is the operations officer. Other ships in the fleet include SMS München, SMS Ao Qin, SMS Loreley, and SMS Zhong Kui.

The Axelrod Corporation is…

…a Transstellar corporation who wants the hidden wealth of Manticore. The “ringleader” of the entire operation is Jeremiah Llyn, an Axelrod black ops agent. Haus knows him as Ichabod; he uses a CGI overlay identity as Count Ernst Bloch; and, he’s the hostage, Max Baird. Captain Lionel Katura, a good astrogator, commands Pacemaker. Hester Fife is one of the crew and a mathematical genius with computers. Master Rafe Rowbtham is supposedly a rich Solarian merchant. Shrike is under Captain Vaagen and Banshee is under Captain Rhamas.

The Volsung mercenaries are…

…based on Walther (Governor Bilshing has title to this minor system within the Silesian System) and led by Admiral Cutler Gensonne, a.k.a., Cutler van Tischendorf, Admiral Swenson, Admiral Koenig of the Imperial Andermani Navy, and Tamerlane who tried to conquer Manticore. At the mercenaries’ public base, Lieutenant Commander Syncho is their public liaison. The Tarantel is a battlecruiser based at Walther. Lieutenant Wolfgang Moeller is the ATO; Lieutenant Commander Margo Feyman is tactical officer. Leuchtfeuer is down for maintenance. Heliograph and Semaphore are the ready-duty ships. Walther’s Schmiede is an orbiting space station commanded by Captain Soeren/Soren Hauser. Captain Ditmar Stoeffel needs to keep Hauser in line. Commander Eric Becker is in engineering.

Odin, a.k.a., Winterfeldt, is commanded by Captain Sweeney Imbar. The cruisers Mollwitz, Burkersdorf, and Rossbach are the Volsung aliases for Adder, Copperhead captained by von Belling, and Mamba, all Thu’ban class ships. Boyen is the alias for Loki commanded by Captain Harcon Jaeger. Fomalhaut, Aldebaran, and Shirokawa are more of the mercenaries’ ships.

Captains Blakeley and De la Roza screwed up and ships were lost: Tyr, Thor, and Umbriel. Captain Hauser runs a scheduled route to Walther.

The Free Duchy of Barca has…

…allowed itself to be used…for a fee and the use of their minuscule Royal Starforce — the Grand Duke wants to annex the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Major General Sigismund Haus is aboard Hamilcar and leads an advisory team along with Barcan troops.

The Red Hand is…

…a band of pirates that includes Bosc. Their ship is Bloodlust, although its commander, “Captain Blaine”, claims she’s the Cornucopia.

The Brotherhood appears…

…to have been a nasty nest of pirates who were wiped out.

The Silesian Confederacy started…

…as a sleaze pit and stayed that way into Honor’s time. The main goal has always been “attempting to gouge everyone in sight…” Olbrycht is one of its planets with Karl Olbrycht as its governor. Ms. Simone Sei owns Eiderdown Cocoon Ship Systems.

The Solarian League is…

…the origin of all the people who emigrated out into the stars. Solly is a slang term for a Solarian. Admiral Vladislav Tremain had written a book on the evolution of tactics about a hundred years ago. Other Transstellar corporations include Technodyne, Shadwell, and Timmerman.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a collage of events within the story in a palette of blues and golds, a thin red outline framing overlapping events. A huge ship hovers over a body of water. A distant view with small boats and explosions in the lower right. In the upper left is Schmiede with the explosive fire of missiles. At the top are the authors’ names in white against a black background. Below that is a blue riband scroll with notched ends and a lighter blue outline with the overall series name in white. Below that is an embossed title, old gold outlined in black, shadowed in a pale bluish purple. A star frames the start and end of the first two words in the same colors and style. Centered at the bottom is the information for this series in a complementary light blue.

The title is Manticore’s response to the attack on their system, A Call to Vengeance, to find the truth — and the attackers.

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