Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Oh! Vatta Lovely War [Review: Engaging The Enemy]

The third Vatta's War novel finds Kylara Vatta travelling to a series of amusingly provincial worlds as she seeks to put together a privateer force to strike back at the pirates. Each planet has its own eccentricities such as Moscoe, where there are millions of by-laws and regulations to enforce basic politeness standards, and crimes are tried in front of the Tree Lord in a mock forest court. Anyone appearing in this court must be dressed appropriately or face the penalties - "it is extremely rude to appear with an uncentered stripe."

This is the least action-heavy of the novels so far, although the plotting and scheming is more devious than ever and the plot does build to a climactic and inevitable space battle. Also, for all the light-heartedness, there are some deeper themes being developed. It's not enough to make Ky always the underdog, she is also allowed by the author to make some seriously bad judgement calls, alienating would-be allies and not necessarily winning all her battles. Stella Vatta is developed as a major character and the rivalry and personality clashes between Ky and Stella are deep and bitter even though they must trust and rely on each other.

Elizabeth Moon seems to be developing some ideas about capacity for violence through the books: Kylara has a genetic predisposition to enjoy killing, but this is separate from morality. Ky remains a very moral and caring character if somewhat on her own terms. It turns out certain other Vattas have also had this secret tendency, turning some into effective secret agents and others into psychopaths.

When the space combat scenes unfold they are good, although lacking the sense of large-scale tactical reality found in David Weber's Honor Harrington series - the appeal here is again Kylara's scheming that snatches victory (of a sort) from the jaws of defeat.

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