Review: Valour’s Choice / Author: Tanya Huff / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
A problem with some military fiction is it can be hard to strike a good balance between humanity and the horror of conflict. Go too far in one direction and you end up driving the reader away with relentless nihilism, too far in the other and you end up losing the pressing danger of battle. Tanya Huff manages to strike an interesting balance with strong characters and a distinctive setting.
Centuries in the future, the alien coalitions of the Confederation and the Others battle relentlessly across the stars. As an opportunity arises to recruit another species as allies, Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr and her platoon are assigned as an honour guard to ensure things go smoothly. Unfortunately, things quickly prove to go anything but smoothly.
The book’s greatest strengths are its characters and its self-awareness. Kerr herself is a great protagonist, likeable, skilled and talented at her profession. There’s an obvious element of Sharpe at play here, with other figures (a distinctive cast of ambassadors, troopers and officers) mostly serving in supporting roles rather than as viewpoint characters, but all prove to be solidly written.
Humanity and the races of the Confederation are well integrated by this point, but the aliens themselves are made out to be clearly alien, with distinctive physiologies, gestures and mentalities which help them to be a cut above your average mono-characterised Star Trek-type race.
Huff's style flirts with cliché, but in a way that is a source of fun rather than eye-rolling irritation, and the dialogue is packed full of pop culture references of the sort that sci-fi fans will pick up on easily.
Sadly there is one flaw which definitely holds the book back. With character interaction such a strong point, the action feels like a side event. The story itself is more one of survival than a campaign, and the battles lack the descriptive punch other authors are able to deliver. This will likely put off readers who value intricately described environments and brawls over character chemistry.
While no Honor Harrington, Valour’s Choice still proves to be a strong start to the series. Combining together a great mix of humour, internal strife and rapid pacing, it’s undeniably easily consumable entertainment.