Book Review: Treecat Wars by David Weber & Jane Lindskold

Posted November 3, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Treecat Wars by David Weber & Jane LindskoldTreecat Wars by David Weber, Jane Lindskold
Genres: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Published by Baen on October 1, 2013
Pages: 376
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


New York Times and Publishers Weekly Best Selling Young Adult Series. Book Three by international writing phenomenon David Weber. Two young settlers on a pioneer planet seeks to stop a war and to save the intelligent alien treecats from exploitation by unscrupulous humans.

The fires are out, but the trouble’s just beginning for the treecats

On pioneer planet Sphinx, ruined lands and the approach of winter force the now Landless Clan to seek new territory. They have one big problem—there’s nowhere to go. Worse, their efforts to find a new home awaken the enmity of the closest treecat clan—a stronger group who’s not giving up a single branch without a fight

Stephanie Harrington, the treecats’ greatest advocate, is off to Manticore for extensive training—and up to her ears in challenges there. That leaves only Stephanie’s best friends, Jessica and Anders, to save the treecats from themselves. And now a group of xenoanthropologists is once again after the great secret of the treecats—that they are intelligent, empathic telepaths—and their agenda will lead to nothing less that treecat exploitation.

Finally, Jessica and Anders face problems of their own, including their growing attraction to one another. It is an attraction that seems a betrayal of Stephanie Harrington, the best friend either of them have ever had.

Also by this author: Cauldron of Ghosts, A Call to Duty, Hell's Foundations Quiver, At the Sign of Triumph, A Call to Vengeance, Uncompromising Honor, Through Fiery Trials, The Shadow of Saganami

Third in the Star Kingdom science fiction fantasy sub series for middle grade readers within the Honorverse overall series and revolving around Stephanie Harrington and her treecat, Lionheart.

My Take
As ever, I adore Weber’s writing. And I have got to get reading Lindskold’s! So far, I’ve only read her work when it’s in conjunction with either a short story collection or with Weber, and I’ve been very impressed.

I hadn’t ever thought of how encompassing a forest ranger’s job is until Treecat Wars and Jill Shalvis’ At Last, 5. It does make sense that they have to know law enforcement, firefighting, search-and-rescue, and environmental protection in addition to caring for plants and animals. Oh, geez, and PR…

An interesting back-and-forth from Stephanie’s to the treecats’ outlooks on events. It’s very interesting, lol, when it comes to love. Poor Anders is so worried about how much Lionheart is “listening into”, lol, ya can’t help but feel for the guy. And Valiant has his thoughts about Jess’ conflicted feelings — it’s so much easier when life is mind-to-mind!

“Love at first sight is wonderful and romantic, but it also means you’re in love with an impression, an idea, an appearance.”

It’s drama and trauma as Stephanie is, in turn, excited and depressed over this terrific opportunity, and it’s Anders who gives Stephanie the best reasons for going.

Parents, this is a good story for kids with good values. Well, I think they’re good, lol. Treecat Wars promotes kids engaging in what they love, being adventurous AND practical as well as heroic, ahem, safely, *grin*. They show consideration for others. And there is good parent behavior in here as well: a parent actually apologizing for his bad behavior, and even better, a parent telling his child he was proud of him. We tend to forget that children need positive reinforcement. Legitimate praise for doing well. There’s a nice dig at people who actually believe that the color of a person’s skin is indicative of human intelligence. Idiots.

I love, love, love that Valiant is so fascinated by gardening. I don’t see how these idiot scientists can’t see beyond their limited expectations!

It’s Dacey’s talent that helps Lionheart make the leap from reality to non-mind images. It’s something so ingrained in our own culture, that we tend to forget that other cultures won’t understand. Weber/Lindskold did a reasonably good job of conveying Lionheart’s confusion over this. I especially love how Lionheart compared Dacey’s paintings to “savoring the tiny differences between the People’s remembered images of the same thing”. Sure comes in handy when Stephanie needs to explain that the two of them will have to travel off-planet.

There’s a clever bit in here about Stephanie’s birthday present to Anders. It’s also clever how Weber/Lindskold introduce a burgeoning love interest. And cute, if not so clever digs about Stephanie making a great fleet commander, oy.

I don’t understand people like Gwen or Ozzie. Okay, so you made a bad investment. Sell it off. Don’t go around killing or kidnapping people!

Anders makes an excellent point about Hidalgo wanting to “seal away the People in tidy little reservations where they can practice their folkways in peace” nor that “the lands ‘given’ to treecats wouldn’t be the best”. Hmmm, sounds like how we treated Native Americans.

Territory-wise, I can understand Keen Eyes wondering why the elders should have the final say about an event that no one of the People have ever experienced before.

Finally, it’s a war that will change Keen Eyes’ mind about two-legs.

The Story
Anders was able to come back to Sphinx due to Dacey’s desire to continue her work, and Stephanie’s thrilled to have the extra three to four months with him.

Then an unknown dream comes true — two slots are available in a “special accelerated training program for Forestry Service personnel on Manticore” — and Stephanie and Karl have been chosen to go!

Only, it will reduce the time she has to spend with Anders.

Meanwhile, the aftermath of the fire in Fire Season, 2, is tragic with the Swaying Fronds Clan desperate for a territory that can help them survive the coming winter. Nor are they the only clan that has been hurt, but nothing, nothing can excuse the murder of one of their own.

This is war!

The Characters
Stephanie Harrington, a.k.a., Death Fang’s Bane *, is Honor’s ancestress and the first human to bond with a treecat, Lionheart, a.k.a., Climbs Quickly *. She’s still young — 15 ½ — but showing her worth already. Dr. Richard Harrington, a.k.a., Healer, is her father and a veterinarian. Her mother, Dr. Marjorie, is a plant biologist and geneticist. Dr. Saleem Smythe is her father’s new assistant.

The eighteen-year-old Karl Zivonik, a.k.a., Shadowed Sunlight, is her friend and a fellow provisional ranger. Sumiko is, was, the girl Karl had intended to marry. Larissa is one of his sisters. Jessica Pheriss, a.k.a., Windswept, has been adopted by a treecat, Valiant, a.k.a., Dirt Grubber of the Damp Water Clan. Her parents are Buddy and Naomi, who’s working with Dr. Marjorie, and her siblings are Melanie-Anne who is too trusting; Archie is her twin; the youngest sister, Tiddles, likes to tie bows on Valiant; Billiam; and, Nathan. Otis and Mookie are their dogs. Other friends include Toby Mednick who has gained confidence and Chet and Christine who are a couple and part of the tourist guide program. Trudy Franchitti is a contemporary, but not a friend. She’s still dating Stan Chang, a doper.

Anders Whitaker, a.k.a., Bleached Fur, is almost 17 with an intense interest in treecats who came with his father’s anthropological expedition last year. He and Stephanie have formed a romantic bond.

The expedition
Dr. Bradford Whitaker, a.k.a., Garbage Collector, has gone home to Urako in the Kenichi system in disgrace and to fight for the right to return. Anders’ mother is a cabinet minister in the Kenichi system. Dr. Calida Emberly, a.k.a., Plant Woman, was the expedition’s xenobiologist and botanist, and she will become the team’s XO; her mother, Dacey Emberly, a.k.a., Eye of Memory, is the expedition’s painter and scientific illustrator. It’s thanks to her that Anders ends up back on Sphinx before he or Stephanie expected. Dr. Kesia Guyen specializes in linguistics and has expanded her area of work into organizing the minutia of treecat culture. Dr. Langston Nez specializes in cultural anthropology and has been Dr. Whittaker’s senior assistant for years. Virgil Iwamoto and his pregnant wife, Peony Rose, have left after his resignation. I think Chancellor Warwick is with a university in the Kenichi system.

The interlopers include Dr. Cleonora Radzinsky, who is known for her work on nonhuman intelligence, also knows quite a bit about what could happen to land ownership if the treecats are accepted as having sentience; Dr. Gary Hidalgo feels strongly about the preservation of indigenous cultures in an uncontaminated state; the jerky Dr. Russell Darrolyn is “at the cutting edge of nonverbal communication studies”; Gretta Grendelson is an assistant with a biology bent who gets an unexpected “welcome” on arrival; and, the sneaky Duff DeWitt is one of Radzinsky’s assistants.

Treecats, a.k.a., the People
Swaying Fronds Clan
Keen Eyes, a.k.a., Survivor, is one of the clan’s scouts. Tiny Choir is their only remaining memory singer, and she’s so young. Sour Belly is one of the older ones and lives up to his name; Wonder Touch is his mate and the opposite of him in character. Red Cliff had been drawn to their clan by “the most beautiful mind-glow he had ever sensed”, Speckles, who earned a new name that day, Beautiful Mind. Bowl Shaper, Firm Biter and Hard Claw are hunters, and Knot Binder are part of the clan as well. Long Voice is a scout.

Trees Enfolding Clan
Nimble Fingers, a.k.a., Guide, is nephew to the vicious Swimmer’s Scourge. Pleasant Singer is a memory singer.

Bright Water Clan
Many treecat clans are against the choices Lionheart/Climbs Quickly’s People have made. Morgana seems to be the leader. Sings Truly is their senior memory singer. Broken Tooth is a half-crippled scout who had taught Climbs Quickly. Song Spinner was Sings Truly’s teacher.

Damp Water Clan
Brilliant Images is one of their memory singers.

The Sphinxian Forestry Service (SFS) Rangers
Chief Ranger Shelton is Stephanie and Karl’s boss and in charge of the Sphinx Forestry Service. Frank Lethbridge and Ainsley Jedrusinski have been promoted to Senior Ranger. The tourist guides program takes some of the pressure off the forest rangers.

Dr. Scott MacDallan, a.k.a., Darkness Foe, is the only other person on Sphinx who has been adopted by a treecat, Fisher, a.k.a., Swift Striker; his wife is Irina Kisaevna. She’s also Karl’s aunt, and he lives with them since his parents died of plague.

Governor Donaldson governs Sphinx. Patricia Helton is Donaldson’s chief of staff. Minister Vasquez is as angry as Donaldson with Whitaker. The Franchitti family believes animals are for hunting.

Forestry Service training program
Dr. Sonura Hobbard is the “official head of the official Crown inquiry into treecat intelligence” for Manticore. Those who don’t like or fear treecats include Dean Charterman, dean of students at Landing University; the patronizing Dr. Harvy Gleason, officially a department head, but Stephanie believes he runs the School of Forestry (he’s also Morrow’s brother-in-law and truly angry that two kids are being enrolled in the Forestry Service training class). Those who like treecats include Dr. Mordecai Flouret, chairman of the College of Criminology. Dr. Emily Tibbets, a.k.a., Justice Tibbets, teaches introductory jurisprudence, and she’s tough. Allen Harper is one of Charterman’s assistants.

Carmen Telford and Jeff Harrison are some of the students in the training course who become friends with Stephanie and Karl.

The Adair Foundation is…
…a nonprofit involved in preserving biodiversity and is chaired by Gwen’s cousin, the Earl of Adair Hollow, George Lebedyenko. Additional board members include Turner and Fitzpatrick. They’re offering the endowment of a xeno-anthropology chair at Landing University in exchange for allowing outside scientists to be added to Whitaker’s expedition. Oswald Morrow, one of the earl’s financial managers, is working with Gwendolyn Adair (she’s a director) of the Adair Foundation to discredit Stephanie and Lionheart. (They were responsible for Bolego being included in the expedition in Fire Season.) Angelique Frampton, Countess Frampton, is part of whatever they’re planning…and heavily invested in Sphinxian lands.

The Charleston Arms is a very fancy and very private restaurant. Steve Cirillom is a footman there.

Genies are humans genetically modified to survive the planet they’re colonizing.

* Each treecat has two names: the one by which s/he is known among the People (the treecats) and the human name given by his/her partner. The treecats also give humans a treecat name. Treecats are a sentient species found only on the planet Sphinx. They are somewhat in appearance to housecats, but are longer, have six legs, and communicate empathically. The babies are called kittens and each clan of treecats is ruled by a memory singer, one who holds all the knowledge of past.

The Cover
I think the cover is meant to be a uniform-clad Stephanie looking out the window of a spaceship as Lionheart’s attention is more on us.

The title is sadly true, for it’s the Treecat Wars that bring the tragedy to Stephanie’s attention.

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