Friday, August 5, 2011

The Heart of Valor by Tanya Huff - review


Military SciFi

Cover - This cover is pretty good for representing a little of what's going on in this novel. There is Torin, now a Gunny....oh, damn, what's that term? Gunnery Sargeant, aka Gunny has agreed to accompany a recovering major so he can see how well his new body is working - (totally scifi - love it) There's the snow, the attacking drones, the building.....

Excerpt Note - I finally found access to a print form of an excerpt, although I had a hard time figuring out how to use it. click on the cover, it'll take you to Books On Board - once there you can click on the cover and get a peek at the contents. With the previous books, I only noticed audio links for excerpts. If you click on the book title here, it'll take you to Kentucky Libaries Unbound where you can access an audio excerpt.

I love these books - by the time I was through with the first in the series, I knew I wanted to read all of them. By the time I was finished with book no 2, I was totally addicted to these. I've now finished all the books I currently have in the A Confederation novels (in my head, I call them the Valor novels) and I miss reading about Torin, her marine compatriots, and Craig - the man she met, the civilian that she's reluctantly attracted to. Well, not totally reluctant, but I get the feeling that this character was a little surprised to end up attracted to him.

In The Heart of Valor Torin Kerr has been promoted to Gunnery Sargeant. The novel starts out with her on station going through numerous meetings and question and answer sessions - something she's frustrated with, being a marine more suited to being on call rather than dealing with paperwork. She suddenly get's the chance to escape all this for 20 days (give or take) by being an aide (or attendant) to a Major Svensson who is going through a training session on a training planet - remember it's the future marines

See - there's this planet named Crucible....It's a planet where recruits go to hone their training. There are different weather systems and land types - swamp/tropical, winter with snow and below zero temperatures, etc. There are also different scenarios of war games, meant to be dangerous enough to really train a marine, but not so dangerous that a marine gets killed unless said marine is really stupid. Major Svensson is a Marine who has survived devastating injuries, being put in a regrowth tank and regrowing essentially his body. His injuries were the most severe ever seen, and his recovery the most dramatic, so the plan is to see if he can function in war - if his nerves work, muscle groups, etc. A doctor is going also - a civilian doctor.

Things begin to go horribly wrong - and not only is Gunny Sargeant Torin having to deal with protecting the Major, but the recruits are also suddenly under her care also (they were supposed to be the reponsibility of the training staff sargeants) due to the sudden health crisis of the staff sargeant normally in charge. The training scenarios have gone haywire, attacking the recruits outside the parameters that had been set. Now the recruits and Torin have to deal with an incapacitated leader and a Major that seems to be just a bit off - disappearing for long periods, spacing out....Things begin to seem just a bit too familiar to Torin - too much like her time on the alien spaceship she just escaped from, as well as the assignment she was previously on.

(There might be spoilers in the following paragraph for the previous book)

In the meantime, her new man - the salvage operator, Craig - and her have realized that no one remembers the escape pod that they used to escape from the alien spaceship. Seems Craig was wondering what happened to it, since he would be entitled to it, and when Torin asks questions about it, she's told "What escape pod" (this happens right before she ships off to Crucible), then is seriously warned off the subject. Turns out the only people who actually remember the escape pod is Craig, Torin and the reporter, Presit - the three that went through the floor of the spaceship (Big Yellow) ....even the navy personnel who helped to bring the escape pod into the ship's bay. The mystery continues...

(End of Spoilery)

A secondary plot involves the training staff sargeant who is from the Di'Taykan (hope I spelled that right- book is not in front of me). Staff Sargeant Beyn was Torin's staff sargeant when she went through Crucible training years before. Like all the other di'Taykans, SST Beyn wears a masker to mask his pheromones - this is necessary so recruits and officers don't suddenly jump each other's bones at inopportune moments. Torin notices that she doesn't even get a wisp of his pheremones, which is very odd - since even with the maskers, there's always a bit of a pull. This is related to why he becomes incapacitated later - leaving the recruits under Torin's responsibility. Actually, she now outranks him, but of course she was supposed to be concentrating on Major Svensson, and now she must find a balance between following the major's orders, "handling" the major and leading the recruits with the other two sargeants. Oh yes, AND make sure that the civilian doctor remains safe. SNAFU - isn't that a term originating from the militaries? It applies here - they all find themselves in a "SNAFU".

The Heart of Valor is the third in the Confederation series by Tanya Huff; continuing the adventures of now Gunnery Sargeant T Kerr. Kerr is a marine who would rather not advance too far up the officer food chain and would rather be with her own platoon. But Gunny Kerr is a soldier who is good at following orders and is good at what she does. She's smarter than some of the brass and yet smart enough not to rub it in their faces unless she has to. I loe her character. And the new character of Craig Ryder (introduced in The Better Part of Valor) is very interesting. A civilian salvage operator who has gotten to Torin, despite herself. He has some serious issues - doens't like to share his space on his salvage ship, yet he needs Torin. I enjoyed a few of the returning characters - such as the reporter Presit of the Katrien species. The Katriens are a species that other find difficult to take serious because they are cute, with soft silky fur, little, and people want to pet them. This can be a mistake. The recruits were great. There's the one that is gung-ho and so bright-eyed and eager - with a crush on Torin. She's the type that packs everything on the suggested list. The others rib her about it, but it seems the extra items do come in handy. There's the computer genious - a whiz at programming and hacking.

The narration and banterish dialogue is just as good in this third novel as I've come to expect from reading this series and a couple of Huff's other series. I stand on my soapbox here: One of the things that I really appreciate with Tanya Huff's writing is that when she writes characters who are gay or bi-sexual, she writes them in a matter-of-fact manner. It's just another part of regular life. This is, I think, important - it's the way that I wish all of us would attempt. Homosexuals have been part of the human race since forever (part of some animals' lives also-I'm pretty sure my young dog is in love with my older dog, both are males. He's not hung up on what should be - he just knows how he FEELS. LOL) and will always be a part of the human experience. In fact with her di'Taykan characters, the di'Taykan seem to be bisexual - sex is an intregal part of their society, their being and there are no biases or preferences towards one sex over the other. Which brings me to another point in her writing. Though she makes clear the sexual habits of the di'Taykan, and her characters begin relationships there is no real graphic scenes. Sex is also treated as matter of factly - in fact Torin possibly falling in love is written in a refreshingly NON-mushy manner. I enjoy this - I also occasionally like to read differing situations, but sometimes I just like to read a story tha may include relationships, love and sex, but not an exaggerated extent.

Of course, the minute I finished reading The Heart of Valor, I dived right into the fourth novel - Valor's Trial - and sadly, the last Valor novel that I currently own. I used to reread novels pretty frequently - back when I was way more poor than I am now (lol). Now, even though I have vague plans to save and reread many of the novels I've been reading, there aren't that many that I'm itching to reread SOON. But along with Suzanne McLeod, Devon Monk, Ilona Andrews, and a couple more - I am seriously tempted to just start at the beginning again with these novels. I enjoyed them that much. The right combination of danger, banter, narration and relationships - Tanya Huff has totally hit the mark for me. I'm so tempted to take some grocery money and go buy the hardback of Truth of Valor, the latest Confederation novel. LOL if I just hold on, have some patience, The Truth of Valor does come out in paperback September 6 of this year. I'm so tempted though - it's hard to wait.

Other series by Tanya Huff include Fantasy (The Summoning series), what I think is referred to as high fantasy (What Ho' Magic, etc), urban fantasy (Blood Price, Smoke and Mirrors) and more.

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