Tanya Huff: An Ancient Peace (The Confederation of Valor #6, Peacekeeper #1)

While this novel is oddly part of two series, continuing the adventures of gunnery sergeant Torin Kerr of the Confederation Marines, it can stand on its own as well, as the setting is pretty familiar science fiction trope territory.

The genre is space opera on an individual scale; the action isn’t space fleet battles as much as boots on the ground in the dirt. It’s feel-good pop-corn reading; the eminently competent sergeant Kerr is thrown into any number of dicy situations and manages to get her and most of her people back out of them, showing integrity and honor and all the romanticized values of a military in the process.

The above shouldn’t be taken to imply this book isn’t good. Ms. Huff continues to deliver the tropy feel-good romp with great skill. Everything is just a notch above what one would expect: the characters, while by no means deep, are interesting and sympathetic and different; the world building feels natural; while the protagonist manages to overcome the plot challenges elegantly enough to satisfy Hollywood sensibilities, a lot of politics and morality and big picture setting somehow still manages to come through.

The basic plot: A group of grave robbers are about to unearth ancient weapons from one of the Elder Races, and it’s up to Kerr and her no-longer-marines company to stop them before their actions can cause another war. The plot pacing isn’t perfect; a lot of the book is a dungeon crawl with one group following the other, and consequently covering some of the same ground. While this allows for comparison between the motivations of the two groups it still felt a bit annoying. The story follows multiple viewpoints as needed in chronological order, and it flows very naturally. The prose is good, albeit not extraordinary.

In summary — if you want a competent, tough-but-good idealized version of a space marine leading a motley crew of races on a romp for justice, this is a book for you.

Three and a half out of five.

Tanya Huff: The Silvered

I’ll have to hand it to Ms. Huff — she’s not happy with any one setting or world or genre, and boldly explores new ones. I generally like her work, though find the quality of it somewhat uneven.

Amazon had suggested, or at least one of its reviews did, that Silvered was Huff’s foray into steampunk. Since I like her and I like steampunk, I picked it up. It’s not steampunk. Yes, there are cannons and balloons and such, but the role of technology is minor, and the type and technological level is not close to that genre either. Instead, it’s a tale of a nation of witches and werewolves at war with a nation of technology and religion. A young witch and a young werewolf have to step up when it becomes obvious that only they can prevent a great calamity.

I have some trouble figuring out just what this book tries to be. There’s obviously a bit of romance. It’s a tale of a girl growing up to a woman, and a powerful hero. It’s a tale of personal conviction and morals overcoming duty when duty is immoral. It’s a werewolf story, it’s fantasy paranormal romance, it’s… a bit hard to pin down.

The characters never quite gain the depth I wish they did. The setting has potential, Ms. Huff doesn’t shy away from brutal violence in her depiction of evil, of fear and war. The plot is well crafted. And yet somehow it doesn’t quite get together, the chemistry doesn’t quite work. There’s nothing wrong with the pacing, the prose or the setting, it just didn’t quite grab me that way I think it should have.

Two and a half out of five.