A new mainstream novel of The Empire’s Corps! After the disastrous mission to Lakshmibai, the very existence of the Commonwealth is called into question by politicians on Avalon. But as the political firestorm mounts, a call for help arrives from Thule, a highly-developed world facing a major insurgency in the wake of the Empire’s collapse. Reluctantly, the Commonwealth deploys the Commonwealth Expeditionary Force to Thule. But all is not as it seems. The insurgents are receiving support from off-world powers, while bare light years across the border, Wolfbane – another successor state to the vanished Empire – is preparing for war … and an old enemy plots her revenge. As the countdown to war begins, the CEF finds itself sinking in a quagmire of bitter hatred … … And nothing more than pawns in a very deadly game.
This is one of these books were I feel that I need to reiterate that I am in no way a professional reviewer and do not aspire to be one. Thus my ratings are heavily influenced by my personal tastes and I am afraid that this book wandered out of my comfort zone by quite some margin. We are back to Avalon and the Commonwealth’s struggle to rebuild and stabilize the region. Unfortunately not all players share the visions of the leaders of Avalon and the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, not all of the leaders of Avalon shares the greater visions for the Commonwealth.
The book, the story and the characters are as well written as in earlier books. However, this is a story of politics, manipulation, deceit, betrayal and general despair. To say that these elements in a story is not exactly my favorite elements would be quite an understatement. Actually they are really elements that I do not like at all. I know this is very much the main elements of several books in this series but they all had things in them that made me feel enjoyment when reading anyway.
The story begins with a politician at Avalon trying to pin the Lakshmibai failure onto the marines and subsequently use that as a political monkey wrench to isolate Avalon and stop offering military help to the Commonwealth members. Bad start. His plans are derailed but, unfortunately, the CEF blunders into yet another scenario which turns out to be a trap and an even worse one than the previous one. The words “not again” popped up in my head rather early in the book. Old enemies return and, of course, makes things even worse than everyone thought they were.
Things go from bad to worse and a good chunk of the book is rather depressing actually. At least if you are on the Commonwealths side. Unfortunately the book ends in a cliffhanger at a time when things looks really black. Needless to say I do dislike cliffhangers. Especially when used in a book like this they give a lingering I-really-did-not-like-this feeling after you close the book.
As I said, the technical aspects of the book are as good as one would expect from this author but it was really not my cup of tea. The one good thing I can say about the book is that it has set the stage for a nice comeback from the Commonwealth and I for one hope that this is the direction that the author plans to take. If the old enemy that returned is not getting a thorough spanking eventually then I am going to be mighty disappointed.
There are also some interesting technical developments by Avalon mentioned in the book that I hope will play a somewhat bigger role in future books than in this one. If you like politics, manipulation, treachery etc…, or at least do not dislike them, then you will probably find this book a lot more enjoyable than I found it. It is a good book, just not my cup of tea as I wrote before.