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    Review of CROWN OF SLAVES by David Weber and Eric Flint

    Baen Books, September 2003

    Haven and Manticore are officially at war but effectively at peace but the two space titans continue to square off against one another. When a political leader is assassinated, neither Haven nor Manticore feels able to send an official government representative but both wish to send a message--and each space nation decides to send its top spy. In the case of Manticore, this is semi-retired Captain Anton Zilwicki, along with adopted daughter Berry and the Queen's niece Ruth. In the case of Haven, the young and intriguing Victor Cachat, along with his boss's wife. On Erewhon, disaffected ally of Manticore, the two find that their interests largely coincide. Both hate the slave trade that is carried out under the neglectful eye of the Solarian League. When evil religious zealots from Massada decide to make a statement, Cachat is forced to put on his cold-blooded act and find a way to drive it to Haven's advantage, but also to the advantage of the millions of enslaved people around the galaxy.

    Set in David Weber's Honor Universe (see more reviews of novels written or edited by Weber), Weber and Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by Flint) combine to follow up on some of the more intriguing short stories from the SERVICE OF THE SWORD (see our review).

    Once CROWN OF SLAVES got going, it had great action, fascinating world-building, and added a new twist to the recently predictable world of Honor Harrington herself (Honor discovers a new technology or creates a new alliance in the nick of time to save Manticore from itself and the Havenites). Weber and Flint offer an intriguing take on slave rebellions, with thoughtful commentary on the problems that freed slaves have in creating stable democracies even if they stage a successful revolution.

    Unfortunately, CROWN OF SLAVES did take a while to get going with an incredibly talky first two hundred pages. While a lot of material was presented in this introduction, the novel would have been strengthened by judicious pruning.

    I'd be interested in other readers' feedback on the ultimate solution to the problem in slave-based societies. I found it difficult to believe that recently freed slaves would make the choice that Weber and Flint had them make. If they were going to choose something other than democracy and other than an ex-slave as a nominal leader, wouldn't they have chosen someone more mature, more experienced, and who had shown a deeper and more longstanding commitment to their cause (I could even buy ex-Countess Cathy Montaigne)

    Wonderful character Victor Cachat more than makes up for the definite flaws in this powerful novel. Cachat's strong moral stands clash with his own ability to become a cold-blooded killer making him stand out as a fully dimensional human being. One you'd definitely want to have on your side if your country were under attack. Certainly Cachat has converted me. I'm pulling for Haven from now on in their endless battle with Manticore.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 9/21/03

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