Book Review: Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber

Posted November 4, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber

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

Hell's Foundations Quiver by David Weber
Genres: Military Science Fiction
Published by Tor on October 13, 2015
Pages: 784
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Centuries ago, the human race fought its first great war against an alien race — and lost. A tiny population of human beings fled to distant Safehold. Centuries later, their descendants have forgotten their history; for them, life has been an eternal Middle Ages, ruled by the Church of God Awaiting, whose secret purpose is to prevent the reemergence of industrial civilization.

But not all of Safehold's founders were on board with this plan. Those dissidents left behind their own secret legacies. One of those is Merlin Athrawes, cybernetic avatar of one of Earth's long dead defenders, now reawakened after a thousand years to restart human progress and reclaim our place in the universe. Merlin has intervened in the small Safeholdian realm of Charis, seeding it with ideas and innovations, and helping it to rise to challenge the hegemony of the Church.

It's been a long and bloody fight, but aided by a stream of inventions — breechloading rifles, signal rockets, claymore mines, new approaches to manufacturing and supply — Charis and its few allies seem to have finally gained the upper hand. Now major realms have begun to consider switching sides.

To all these ends, Merlin Athrawes has been everywhere, under multiple disguises and wielding hidden powers. The secret of who and what he is has been closely held. But a new player has arrived, one who knows many secrets — including Merlin's own.

Also by this author: Cauldron of Ghosts, Treecat Wars, A Call to Duty, At the Sign of Triumph, A Call to Vengeance, Uncompromising Honor, Through Fiery Trials, The Shadow of Saganami

Eighth in the Safehold military science fiction series and devolving around a religious war between a corrupt Church and the decent people the Church claims are heretics.

My Take

It starts off with Aivah’s story about Saint Kohdy and the secretive order that has kept his grave and journal safe. Boy, talk about a horror. The cover-up on this, while well done, is disgusting. Rewriting their holy book to cover up their sins. Adding new books to reflect the changes later generations of vicars and priests want. Huh, I wonder who this reminds me of…

Saint Kohdy’s story is a great opportunity for Weber to fill in more of the back story on what happened in the original war between the scientists, the “archangels”.

It’s similar to Like a Mighty Army, 7, in that there are lots of battles with victories and defeats on both sides. Fortunately, there was really only one incident that made me cry. Khapahr’s decision still makes me want to weep. I don’t know how he could have been so clumsy at the last minute like that. It doesn’t make sense for his character.

Mother Church is catching up weapons-wise with Charis, which is a scary proposition. But no scarier than getting the dummy generals weeded out and the Church finding more competent ones. Fortunately, that jerk Clyntahn is still insisting on calling the shots based on his emotions.

It also helps that the Charisian policy of dealing with the inquisitors has them quaking in their boots — every time an Army of God unit is captured or about to be captured, the inquisitors all commit suicide. Yep, couldn’t happen to a “nicer” bunch of fellas. Interesting as well that some of the Church military men are thinking that Charisian policy has its bonus points.

You may be wondering why I’m giving this a “4”. Well, as annoying as I found this latest installment with all the battles and the story not getting much further forward than where we were in Midst Toil and Tribulation, 6, it’s those cameos. Portraying regular soldiers of both sides as individuals performing their tasks, learning their fears, and getting a sense of how different levels of people view what’s happening in their world is a brilliant way to pull the reader in, to make this behemoth of a book more intimate.

I do NOT love the weird spellings Weber has been using from the start. With such a huge cast of characters, these odd spellings makes it impossible to keep track of who belongs where. Your best bet is to skim the names and remember: Church bad, Charisians and their allies good.

I do have to wonder why Seijin Merlin couldn’t have blown up that last capture and kept it out of Dohlaran hands. It’s not like the previous Charisian arguments about making Mother Church sit up and take notice.

I love the argument that rages about the gold Charis has found. Clyntahn insists it indicates how desperate Shan-wei is to succeed while others point out that if God were truly on their side, he would have prevented the demon from finding the gold.

The really excellent bit of the entire story is Thirsk, and even that is just a taste of what may be possible. It was most unfair of Weber to end it right there! Now I have to wait a year to find out what Merlin says to him and how Thirsk responds!

The Story

With Merlin on their side, with his access to all the technology of the Terran Federation, Charis has stepped out beyond the careful technological restraint placed on their planet that is enforced by the Church of God Awaiting. An institution, a powerhouse, that has become corrupted beyond belief and that the tiny kingdom — now an imperial empire — has taken on and is beating.

Mother Church claims that Charis and its allies are pawns of the demon Shan-wei, but many — from its allies, its faithful, and even within its own ranks — are beginning to question who the demon truly is.

The Characters

I’m only going to touch on major characters in this, and trust me, this would have been pages longer if I hadn’t.

Merlin Athrawes is an avatar, a PICA along with Nimue Chwaeriau. Both began “life” with Nimue Alban‘s memories imprinted into them. Merlin became aware some seven years ago with the goal of returning the original mission parameters to Safehold. Nimue was brought to “life” a short time ago. Both have all the knowledge of the now-vanished, highly technical Earth. They can alter their physical appearance at will, can’t be killed, have tremendous strength, and are incredibly skilled in combat.

Merlin has a number of aliases as the seijin, a folklore hero to Safeholdians: Ahbraim Zhevons; Zhozuah Murphai visits Mistress Marzho; Dialydd Mab is his terrorist persona killing inquisitors and vicars; and, Dagyr Cudd takes messages to Sharpfield. The Fist of God, a.k.a., The Fist of Kau-Yung, is actually Merlin playing terrorist as he kills off vicars, sextons, and more. Nimue’s alias is Ganieda Cysgodol. Aunt Aeronwen was the real Nimue’s father’s older sister and a psychiatrist.

Nimue’s Cave is…
…the hiding place where the original scientists who settled Safehold hid their high tech computers and equipment. Owl is a computer program with which Merlin, Nimue, and those in the inner circle can interface. The SNARCs are small spy devices scattered throughout Safehold. Nahrmahn Baytz was a prince who died (How Firm a Foundation, 5) but they managed to upload his memories and personality to the computers and now he interacts as a hologram with our side.

Seijin Kohdy is one of those folkloric tales but against the usual type, more of a conjurer or vagabond of fun. Turns out he wasn’t all that fictional. Cody Cortazar was an Adam in the Zion Enclave (he had been a sergeant major in the Terran Federation Marine Corps); his wife, Sandra, was killed three years after being awakened. Kynyth Tompsyn had been his closest mortal companion.

The Imperial Kingdom of Charis and Its Allies

The Imperial Kingdom of Charis is…
…the good guy who has been spearheading the war effort, a war which began as a defensive measure. Tellesburg is its capital city. Cayleb and Sharleyan Ahrmakh are the emperor and empress. They have a daughter, Alahnah. Sergeant Edwyrd Seahamper is still alive and now Alahnah’s personal armsman. Archbishop Maikel Staynair is the head of the Charisian Church. Father Paityr Wylsyn, the Intendant in Charis, is still in charge of granting patents. Ehdwyrd Howsmyn has been building or inventing almost everything the empire needs through the Delthak Works, which employs well over 100,000 men. Zhain is his wife and the daughter of the Earl of Sharpfield. Brahd Stylmyn is re-inventing the railroad. Master Taigys Mahldyn is in charge of rifles. Earl Pine Hollow is first councilor.

Rahzhyr Mahklyn is the head of the Royal College. Doctor Dahnel Vyrnyr is recreating the science of pressure dynamics. Doctor Sahndrah Lywys reinvented dynamite.

The Imperial Charisian Navy (ICN)
Sir Domynyk Staynair is High Admiral Rock Point and Maikel Staynair’s brother. Payter Shain is sent to wipe out Desnarian privateers. Admiral Sir Dunkyn Yairley, Baron Sarmouth, commands HMS Destiny and gets brought into the inner circle; Hektor is his flag lieutenant. Sylvyst Raigly is Sarmouth’s longtime steward and valet. Captain Rhobair Lathy is his flag captain.

Sir Lewk Cohlmyn, Earl Sharpfield, is in command of the naval contingent sent to Claw Island in the Gulf of Dohlar (I think Talisman Island is the same thing or nearby). Sir Mahrak Tymplytyn is his flag lieutenant. Commander Symyn Makgrygair will command the base facilities on Rahzhyr Bay; Major Qwentyn Ohmahly will command the Marine garrison. Sir Bruhstair Ahbaht commands the ironclad HMS Thunderer, sister ship to the Dreadnought. Lieutenant Daivyn Kylmahn is its first lieutenant, and Ahlber Zhaksyn is its second lieutenant. Captain Raimahnd Tohbyais of the Sickle deliberately turned back to give the rest a chance. Captain Kahrltyn Haigy commands HMS Dreadnought.

The Imperial Charisian Army
Sir Hauwerd Breygart, the Earl of Hanth, commands the Army of Thesmar; Mairah is his wife. Rushyl Thairis, the Duke of Eastshare (a Chisholmian, he’s now the first high general), routed the Army of Shiloh under Duke Harless’ command. General Ahlyn Symkyn commands the Army of the Daivyn. Earl High Mount commands the Army of Cliff Peak. The Army of the Branaths. Sir Kynt Clareyk, the Baron of Green Valley, commands the Army of Midhold. General Trumyn Stohnar fought hard at the Sylmahn Gap last spring.

The Brethren are a very secretive order which hides the journal of Saint Zherneau (Jeremiah Knowles, one of the original Adams) which revealed the Adams and Eves, humans whose memories the “archangels” rewrote.

The Republic of Siddarmark
Aivah Pahrsahn (she has an eidetic memory) has her own various identities, including Ahnzhelyk Phonda as her most public one as a madame for a brothel catering to the fathers in Zion; Frahncyn Tahlbaht; Mother Superior of the Abbey of St. Kohdy; Nynian Rychtair was her original name; and, Arbalest is her Helm Cleaver code name. Sister Klairah of the Convent of Saint Ahnzhelyk recruited this bastard daughter of a vicar. Sister Klairah was actually part of the Saint Kohdy order, a secret underground group who held a truth about the archangels. Sandaria Ghatfryd had been Aivah’s personal maid for twenty years and her second-in-command of the Sisters of Saint Kohdy. I think Helm Cleaver is Aivah’s spy organization.

Daryus Parkair is the Republic’s chancellor of the exchequer and seneschal. Lord Protector Greyghor is its ruler. Archbishop Klairmant Gairlyng is the head of the Siddarmark branch. Archbishop Cahnyr Zhasyn raised the Glacierhearters in Midst Toil and Tribulation, 6; Fraidmyn Tohmys has been his valet for years.

Corisande is…
…a Charisian ally with Manchyr as its capital. Sir Rysel Gahrvai, the Earl of Anvil Rock, and Admiral Taryl Lektor, the Earl of Tartarian were Prince Daivyn Daykyn‘s co-regents. Princess Irys is Daivyn’s sister and regent, and she’s married to Hektor Alply-Ahrmahk, the Duke of Darcos. She’s also pregnant! Phylyp Ahzgood, the Earl of Coris, was Corisande’s spymaster and guardian to the prince and princess.

Chisholm is…
…Sharleyan’s original kingdom with Cherayth as its capital. Mahrak Sandyrs, Baron Green Mountain, was crippled after a bombing attack in How Firm a Foundation, 5, and has retired. He had been like a father to Sharleyan. Braisyn Byrns, the Earl of White Crag, is the new First Councilor. Sylvst Mhardyr, the Baron of Stoneheart, is the Lord Justice. Sir Frazher Kahlyns is in charge of the home army. Sir Ahlber Zhustyn is her spymaster.

Duke Rock Coast and Duke Black Horse are still conspiring, and the Grand Duke of Mountain Heart is beginning to listen. That idiot woman, Rebkah Rahskail, the Dowager Countess of Swayle, has set up a betrothal between her son, Wahlys, and the daughter of Sir Brndyn Crawfyrd, Duke of Holy Tree. They seem to be leaving Black Horse and Rock Coast’s usual companion in intrigue, Earl Dragon Hill, out in the cold. Their plans could well hurt Karyl Rydmakyr, the Dowager Countess of Cheshyr, a supporter of Charis, and regent for her son, Kahlvyn. Styvyn is his son and will take over as earl, BUT Styvyn reveres his cousin Rock Coast.

The Church of God Awaiting is…

…referred to as Mother Church, and they’re the enemy with their headquarters in Zion, the Temple Lands. More specifically, the enemy is Vicar Zhaspahr Clyntahn, the leader of the Inquisition and one of the Gang of Four. He’s a pathological pig with great powers and an overwhelming need to gather up power. He’s willing to lie, cheat, steal, or murder to get his way with his Jihad. Wyllym Rayno, Archbishop of Chiang-wu, is his spymaster.

Vicar Rhobair Duchairn is the treasurer. Vicar Allayn Maigwair is the Captain General of the Church’s military. Vicar Zahmsyn Trynair is the Church’s chancellor, a powerhouse at the start, he’s firmly under Clyntahn’s heel today. Dynnys Zhwaigair and Brother Lynkyn Fultyn are inventing new weapons to try and catch up with the Charisians. Archbishop Militant Gustyv Walkyr is Vicar Allayn’s chief assistant.

The Army of God (AOG) enemy commanders include…
General Sir Fahstyr Rychtyr commands the Army of Seridahn. Sir Rainos Ahlverez, a cousin of the deceased Sir Faidal Ahlverez, Duke of Malikai (who died in Off Armageddon Reef, 1), who was himself a cousin by marriage to the Duke of Thorast, manages to salvage a very small part of the Dohlaran Army of Shiloh, which was routed by Eastshare. Bishop Militant Bahrnabai Wyrshym, who commands the Army of the Sylmahn and Auxiliary Bishop Ernyst Abernethy are wondering about Clyntahn. Bishop Militant Cahnyr Kaitswyrth commands the Army of Glacierheart; Father Sedryk Zavyr is his intendant. Sir Clairync Dynvyrs, Baron Wheatfields is with the Army of Glacierheart, and must send his friend, Sir Daivyn Wynstyn, the Baron of Tryfield, to his death to buy that army a chance.

Prince Grygory and Earl Usher are bringing armies. Bishop Militant Tayrens Teagmahn commands the Army of Tanshar. Bishop Militant Gorthyk Nybar must surrender the Army of Fairkyn to Sahmyrsyt. Even his own intendant, Father Charlz Kaillyt believes it’s the best.

Taychau Daiyang, the Earl of Rainbow Waters, is the commander (and lord of horse) of the Imperial Harchongese Mighty Host of God and the Archangels. His nephew, Medyng Hwojahn, the Baron of Wind Song, is captain of horse and Rainbow Waters’ senior aide and adjutant. Lord of Horse Zhowku Seidyng, the Earl of Silken Hills, will command the Southern Mighty Host of God and the Archangels. Captain of Horse Kaishu Hywanlohng is a reliable soldier and chief of staff to Silken Hills. Baron Falling Rock commands another part.

Mother Church’s concentration camps are…
…holding possible heretics. Inquisitor General Wylbyr is in charge of those camps. In Camp Dynnys, the vicious Father Zheryld Cumyngs is trying to burn all evidence of his corruption. The commanding officer at Dynnys, Colonel Ahgustahn Tymahk, says no to Bishop Maikel Zhynkyns. Camp Chihiro surrendered happily. Camp St. Tailahr outside Lake City was particularly brutal. Archbishop Arthyn Zagyrsk intervened and insisted they be adequately fed and given minimal medical care.

Helm Cleaver in Zion
Alahnah Bahrns and Zhorzhet Styvynsyn work in Mistress Marzho’s Fine Milliners in the City of Zion. Marzho Alysyn is actually Sister Marzho of the Sisters of Saint Kohdy. Ahrloh Mahkbyth, a.k.a., Barcor, is an ex-Temple Guardsman who opened Mahkbyth’s Fine Spirits and Wines. Zhak Myllyr is his senior employee and a Church spy. Father Byrtrym Zhansyn, a.k.a., Banister, is a Schuelerite and a spy for Helm Cleaver.

Kingdom of Dohlar is…
…an ally of the Church. Rahnyld is its ineffective king and his son, Rahnyld, isn’t old enough to take over. Archbishop Ahbsahlahn Kharmych is the Kingdom’s intendant. The Royal Council includes Sir Zhorj Laikhyrst, Baron of Yellowstone, is the foreign secretary; Zibram Zaivyair, the Duke of Thorast, hates Thirsk and, fortunately, no longer has day-to-day oversight of the navy; Samyl Cahkrayn, the Duke of Fern, is King Rahnyld’s first councilor; and, Shain Hauwyl, the Duke of Salthar, is the commander of the Royal Dohlaran Army. Father Chermyn Suzhymahga, the senior agent inquisitor, beards Thirsk in his cabin.

The disillusioned Lewys Gardynyr, the Earl of Thirsk, is the kingdom’s senior fleet commander. Gorath Bay is where Thirsk is based. His flag ship is the Chihiro. Bishop Staiphan Maik is on Thirsk’s side. Commander Ahlvyn Khapahr is Thirsk’s chief of staff and intensely loyal to him. Stywyrt Baiket is Chihiro‘s CO and Thirsk’s flag captain; Sir Ahbail Bahrdailahn is his flag lieutenant. Mhartyn Rahlstyn is first lieutenant. Mahrtyn Vahnwyk is Thirsk’s personal secretary.

Lady Stefyny Mahkzwail, Hailyn Whytmyn, and Zhoahna (the youngest and a Pasquale novice) are Thirsk’s daughters. Lady Stefyny and her shipbuilder husband, Sir Ahrnahld, have two children of their own — Lyzet and Zhosifyn — and two orphaned siblings living with them — Kahrmyncetah and Ahlyxandyr (he’s Thirsk’s heir and the oldest grandchild) — whose parents (his father was Lanfyrd, Thirsk’s son and their brother) died in a fire. Hailyn and her husband, Greyghor, have three children: Lywys and Zhudyth are twins and Gyffry. Maghdylkynah Harpahr has been Stefyny’s nanny, maid, and housekeeper since Stefyny was a child.

Seventeen-year-old Hektor will captain the HMS Fleet Wing to take on passengers in the Fern Narrows.

Shulmyn Rahdgyrz, the Baron of Tymplahr, is Thirsk’s friend. Admiral Pawal Hahlynd is another friend and will command the screw-galleys. Lazymyr Kartyr is a merchant captain who uses his Mairee Zhain to smuggle contraband. Until he got caught.

Sir Dahrand Rohsail commands the Royal Dohlaran Navy’s Western Squadron from his flag ship, the Defiant, and is very competent. Markys Hamptyn is his flag captain. Admiral Caitahno Raisahndo is Rohsail’s second-in-command and aboard his own flag ship, Demonslayer.

Captain Frahnchesko Ohkamohto of Tide is the senior officer in command of the prisoner convoy. The Prodigal Lass commanded by Rubyn Mychysyn with Father Tymythy Maikyn as one of the priests and HMS Truculent captained by Commander Urwyn Guhstahvsyn are used to transport the Charisian prisoners.

Empire of Desnair is…
…another Church ally with Emperor Mahrys IV as its current ruler. Sir Slokym Dahrnail, Duke of Shairn, is the navy minister, a passionate Temple loyalist.

Harchongese Empire is…
…another Church ally.

Sir Gwylym Manthyr and his men surrendered honorably to Thirsk in How Firm a Foundation, 5. Now their murders are a rallying cry for the Charisians. The Writ is the Safeholdian holy bible that has been rewritten time and time again, beginning with “Archangel” Langhorne. The Book of Schueler and the Book of Chihiro were later additions. Saint Evyrahard. Pei Shan Wei and the Fallen were actually the scientists who disagreed with Langhorne, Bedard, Chihiro, Schueler, and the others over how to implement their mission. Kau-yung did kill Langhorne and others. Aliens, the Gbaba, destroyed Earth which is why the small colony of earthlings were sent out into space.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a really deep green metallic background with the author’s name (at top) and the title (at bottom) in an embossed silver. The middle third is a graphic band of the rescue at sea and Merlin’s skimmer blowing up the Saint Frydhelm. The image has a narrow band of copper at top and bottom with promotional information.

When Hell’s Foundations Quiver, Clyntahn is beginning to realize that he might not be on the winning side.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber

  1. Linda

    I honestly think there is a huge case of did not think this thing though. David Weber shows a few Inquisitors that did not deserve to be executed out of hand just because of the office they ended up in some of them weren’t even there by choice. They end up in Charisian hands and he glosses over their ultimate fate because he doesn’t want to show his heroes getting their hands dirty by carrying out unjust executions. I Doubt Mr. Weber will ever read this but I hope he does. Did you forget Caleb’s little edict did not extend to church indendants or did Calab not thing that when they started killing off Inquisitors those otherwise decent indendants might be drafted into the Inquisition. EPIC FAIL.

    Others than that I did enjoy the book.

    • Actually, I thought Weber was rather scrupulous in who was executed, and I don’t remember Caleb exempting anyone. I particularly remember those Inquisitors in Zion who were killed or arrested, as those who particularly deserved it. As for being drafted into the Inquisition, didn’t Duchaine eliminate it?

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