At All Costs
|Series||Honor Harrington series|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3573.E217 A94 2005|
|Preceded by||War of Honor|
|Followed by||Mission of Honor|
Due to the actions of the High Ridge government in War of Honor, which led to a successful attack on key Alliance shipyards by the Republic of Haven, the Star Kingdom of Manticore finds itself decidedly on the short end of the strategic balance between the two warring star nations. Admiral Honor Harrington is placed in command of Eighth Fleet, the Manticoran Alliance's primary offensive force, which is the sole heavy formation available for operations against Haven. Queen Elizabeth and her senior advisors project it will be at least two "T-years" (Terran years, i.e. Earth years) before they can expect any significant numbers of new construction to begin bolstering their thin wall of battle; this while Haven's progress under Admirals Theisman and Foraker have given them an even larger force advantage, and smaller technological disparity, than Haven suffered before the beginning of hostilities in Short Victorious War.
Strategically, the Eighth Fleet's goal is to instill enough operational caution and sensitivity to losses in Haven to force redeployments of starships in defensive postures, reducing Haven's offensive resources. To expedite this, they are assigned the lion's share of Manticore's cutting-edge warfighting hardware, including the new "Apollo" self-guided missile system and "Keyhole" platforms that increase the efficacy of their own counter-missiles. Their first two raids do indeed instill some panic into the Havenite populace, but on the third, at Solon, a defensive ambush led by Admiral Javier Giscard is waiting for them. Honor is sorely trounced, losing several ships and being forced to abandon a vessel captained by her best friend, Admiral Michelle "Mike" Henke, Countess Gold Peak, to its own devices; Henke is believed killed in action.
Honor continues to work closely with Hamish Alexander, now First Lord of the Admiralty, on the military and political challenges facing the Alliance. Their professional respect for each other's abilities, and their need for mutual support as they navigate the precarious political landscape in the Star Kingdom, has led them into the very romantic embrace the High Ridge government tried to insinuate during War of Honor. While this is not the dire political crisis it was during the prior Star Kingdom government, it still offers numerous personal and professional difficulties for them. Unfortunately, they find themselves trapped between their emotions and their responsibilities to each other, to the loved ones in their lives, and to the Star Kingdom and the Alliance. The dilemma is resolved when the Reverend of Grayson engineers a polygamous marriage of Honor to Hamish and his crippled wife Emily. This becomes of pressing importance because Honor's regulation-mandated contraceptive implant has accidentally expired; she and Hamish conceive a son, Raoul, who is "tubed" while his mother goes into combat and is born before the end of the novel. Emily, with the assistance of Honor's mother Allison, a leading geneticist, also becomes a mother with Hamish.
Republic of Haven President Eloise Pritchart continues to work towards finding a peaceful solution to the war. She and her administration become aware that the previous diplomatic talks (as documented in War of Honor) were sabotaged by her Secretary of State, Arnold Giancola, who deliberately altered the contents of both incoming and outgoing messages without anyone being the wiser. Unfortunately, both he and his accomplice, Yves Grosclaude, are killed before they can be questioned—Grosclaude in an "accident" caused by what is later revealed to be nanotechnology, which took over his body and forced him to crash his aircar; and Giancola in a genuine mid-air collision. This lack of proof prevents Pritchart from coming forward and accepting culpability for the current war, but she nonetheless sends Mike Henke—actually a POW—back to Manticore with an offer for a peace conference.
Queen Elizabeth accepts, but several more cases of the nanotechnology are deployed to in assassination attempts on other figures of Manticoran note, including Queen Berry of Torch and her Head of Intelligence, Elizabeth's niece Ruth Winton. Though both survive, and though cool-headed elements within Manticore (not to mention Pritchard's entire cabinet) identify that the attempts could not have stemmed from Haven as they have destabilized the very peace conference Pritchard proposed, Elizabeth, who has already lost much of her family to Havenite assassination, resumes war, ordering the Eighth Fleet to attack the Lovat System. Honor does so, and this time turns the tables on Giscard's ambushers, leading to the destruction of most of his fleet, as well as his death.
Pritchart, with few options and devastated by the loss of her lover Giscard, realizes that if Haven cannot conclude the war peacefully, they must conclude it violently. She authorizes "Operation Beatrice," a direct strike at the Manticore System itself. The result is the largest space battle in recorded history: Haven's Second and Fifth fleets between them contain over three hundred superdreadnoughts, with the Manticoran Home, Third and Eighth Fleets contributing close to two hundred as well. Admiral Lester Tourville comes close to taking the day, crushing (in separate engagements) both Home and Third Fleets, despite the latter being bolstered by elements of Harrington's fleet led by her original XO, Adm. Alistair McKeon. However, Harrington, the last to take the field, is also armed with a full battery of Apollo missiles, which out-range anything Haven has in answer and is practically immune to their countermeasures. She effortlessly wipes out Fifth Fleet, and Tourville surrenders the remainder of Second. It is still a bittersweet victory: both star nations have lost the majority of their fleets, and a combined 2.6 million sailors, including McKeon. And neither can necessarily afford the losses: while most of the Manticoran and Havenite politicians have correctly absolved Haven for the botched assassination attempts, they have not managed to identify the actual perpetrator: the forces of Mesa, a star nation with a history of genetic slavery, whose technology and aims are far beyond what either Manticore or Haven can comprehend...
Most of the action takes place simultaneously with the events of The Shadow of Saganami. In addition to Manticore, Haven, and Grayson, front stage players (even those lurking in the wings of the stage) now include the Andermani, who have entered the Manticorian Alliance; the genetic slavers of Mesa, secretly striving to keep Manticore and Haven shooting at each other as long as possible; non-self absorbed elements of the Solarian League continuing the inexorable and glacier creep of League influence; and the inhabitants of the Talbot Cluster, clamoring for membership in the Star Kingdom after discovering the new Manticore Junction terminus in their region of space.
The book was released in hardcover in 2005 (with a CD-ROM containing free copies of other works written by Weber). Advance Reader Copies were made available for sale at baen.com some months previously, with a sizable portion of the book being "snippetted" on Baen's Bar for free.
In conference, Admiral Thomas Caparelli tells Honor that Hamish has compared her favorably to the Old Earth "wet-navy" Admirals Raphael Semmes and Bill Halsey. Hamish said Honor had "marginally better tactical sense than Semmes and better strategic sense than Halsey." Semmes is remembered for his strategy and Halsey for his tactics, and Honor knows this.
David Weber has stated his original plan was to have Honor in charge of the third fleet during the final battle, and perish during the battle. Her son, then would have had his own series start as he came of age, at which point the Solarian League begins its breakup, and a long war begins.
- See end of Chapter 23.
- An Authorial Note. David Weber.
War of Honor
|Honor Harrington books||Succeeded by
Mission of Honor