Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Honor Blade

Star Trek #96: Honor Blade by Diane Duane
Rihannsu #4
Published October 2000
Read December 15th, 2011

Previous book (Rihannsu): Swordhunt
Next book (Rihannsu): The Empty Chair

Previous book (The Original Series): Rihannsu #3: Swordhunt
Next book (The Original Series - Production Order): The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh: Book One
Next book (The Original Series - Numbered Novels): In the Name of Honor
Spoilers ahead for Honor Blade and the Rihannsu saga!


From the back cover:
At last, the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Star Empire have agreed to meet on neutral ground to attempt to resolve the tangle of intrigue and conspiracy that began with the hijacking of the U.S.S. Intrepid many years ago -- but the meeting may be as dangerous as the war they hope to avoid.
As a show of good faith, the crew of the legendary Starship Enterprise has been ordered to attend the talks.  In their informal charge is Romulan renegade Ael, the wanted fugitive who, with Kirk, served as a catalyst of the current troubles.  Kirk must represent the interests of the Federation first and foremost, but the best approach to an agreement remains muddled in the ever-shifting Romulan order.
And the visiting Romulan party is as fractious and divided as their troubled world.  Among the Romulan nobles in attendance are the hero and popular Senator Arrhae, who secretly helped rescue Dr. Leonard McCoy from a Romulan execution, and the very men and women who put McCoy on trial for treason -- and tried to carry out the sentence.
As Kirk and crew attempt to renegotiate a delicate peace, and Romulans attempt to restore their tarnished honor, it becomes increasingly apparent that their only course of action is to prepare for war!

About the Novel:

Honor Blade picks up immediately after the events of Swordhunt.  The Federation and Romulan diplomatic parties arrive at the meeting place, while Commander Ael and the Bloodwing remain hidden away from the sensitive negotiations.  The talks are to take place aboard a neutral starship, and joining the negotiations are several familiar faces.  On the Federation side, both Ambassador Robert Fox ("A Taste of Armageddon") and Samuel T. Cogley, Attorney at Law ("Court Martial") are in attendance.  On the Romulan delegation is Senator Arrhae, who in actual fact is a Lt. Commander in Starfleet, deep undercover in the Romulan Empire (see a prior Rihannsu novel, The Romulan Way).


As the negotiations get underway, it soon becomes apparent that they are just a front for the Romulans to capture or destroy Commander Ael and the sword and begin a war with the Federation.  Determined not to let that happen, Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise intervene in their machinations and attempt to sway the situation in the Federation's favor.

My Thoughts:

As usual with Diane Duane's work, the writing and story-telling are superb.  She has a particular talent for writing Commander Ael and Captain Kirk in a very compelling manner.  There is much to like in the Rihannsu novels, not the least of which is the depth that Duane gives the Romulan culture, an element that was unfortunately missing in the on-screen incarnations of Star Trek.


One particular aspect of the story that I loved was Captain Kirk's (and, by extension, the Enterprise's) reputation and relationship with the rest of Starfleet.  The idea that the Enterprise's exploits have become so famous and numerous that the rest of the fleet would take her and her crew for granted is a very interesting idea.  The Enterprise coming under attack by Romulan vessels in Federation space is no big deal, because everyone knows that Jim Kirk will, as usual, pull a rabbit out of his hat and escape unscathed.  Naturally, this attitude grates on Kirk, who doesn't like to be taken for granted.  An interesting angle on the "larger than life" reputation the Enterprise has that I had not considered before.


As mentioned in the previous review of Swordhunt, Honor Blade is simply part two of three, and the story won't be concluded until the final novel, The Empty Chair.  However, I feel that Swordhunt and Honor Blade together make one fairly cohesive story, with a definite turning point at the end.  Therefore, I have no problem making a full review of these stories, while still finishing reading the final book. 

Final Thoughts:

Great plot and characterizations, the Rihannsu saga has done much to hold my interest.  I am a huge admirer of Diane Duane's writing talents, and look forward to reading more by her.  Already in the queue to be read at some future point are her novels Doctor's Orders and The Wounded Sky.

Final rating for Swordhunt and Honor Blade together: 8.5/10.


I am (of course!) reading the final novel in Diane Duane's Rihannsu saga, The Empty Chair.  I can't wait to see how this all ends!