RogerBW's Blog

Audacious, Mike Shepherd 30 June 2020

2007 military SF, fifth of the Kris Longknife books. Kris is sent to show the royal flag on a minor diplomatic mission to one of Earth's first colonies.

Well, of course, that's not what it's going to be about! And I'm glad to say that people have smartened up a bit compared with previous books in this series; Kris quickly realises that the thing which has happened before is happening again, and by the end of the book has confronted the King and made it clear that she's not going to be put into this kind of situation ("it's messed up, and we want you to do something about it") with no briefing or orders any more.

The bad guys have smartened up a little too, but we still have the usual pattern of "stupid Peterwald heir throws spanners in the works of the competent but not as well-born enemy field commander" – indeed, on this occasion, if the heir hadn't been stupid, Kris wouldn't have been alerted to the actual planetary takeover plot in time to do anything about it. I'd take this as a polemic against hereditary power if Shepherd weren't so clearly happy to have his heroine being an actual princess (and if the king appointed himself, so much the better).

There's never any question of loyalties here: you can tell which side someone's on within a paragraph of their introduction. OK, so can everyone in the book, which helps them look a bit less like idiots, but it's still a bit lacking in subtlety for my taste. (Of course, all the professional military characters are on the side of Good.)

On the other hand… this book's planet has a political mess, and one might have expected a lesser author to go off on a political rant – many do – but Shepherd sticks strictly to the desire for a universal franchise rather than getting into any of the other problems. (That said, there's a welcome acknowledgement that by the end of the book there are plenty of problems left for the planet to solve once the shooty heroes have gone home.)

The opposition still tends to be a bit dim, but they're doing better than they have in previous books. Their plan actually makes some amount of sense (though if lbh'er tbvat gb nffnffvangr gur ragver yrnqrefuvc bs gur cynarg fb gung lbhe cngfvrf pna zbir va naq gnxr bire, jbhyqa'g vg znxr frafr gb trg gur bccbfvgvba nf jryy fvapr gur pheerag yrnqrefuvc vf zhpu zber ba lbhe fvqr guna gurl jvyy or naq gurl'er zhpu zber boivbhfyl va n cbfvgvba gb gel gb sbez n tbireazrag?). The action works.

This isn't great, but it's better than the last few. Or maybe I should just keep taking them at multi-year intervals.

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Previous in series: Resolute | Series: Kris Longknife | Next in series: Audacious

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