This week I decided to review Shadow of Freedom by David Weber. The story was originally intended to be the second part of A Rising Thunder but was made into a separate book due to the length of it combined with A Rising Thunder. It primarily focuses on the Star Empire of Manticore’s Tenth fleet in the aftermath of Operation Oyster Bay, a sneak attack which disables the Star Empire’s warship and missile production until new shipyards and factories can be built. The Tenth fleet is at the forefront of the growing conflict between the Star Empire and the Solarian League, and with its missiles being the Manticoran Navy’s largest advantage over the enemy ammunition, supplies are vital. Problems quickly come to a head when a League governor illegally impounds a group of Manticoran freighters and refuses to back down, leading to a small space battle and a boarding mission to rescue the crews of the seized vessels. Meanwhile, a number of rebellions have arisen on vassal worlds of the League’s Office of Frontier Security, rebellions encouraged by false promises of Manticoran aid from impostors claiming to be Star Empire agents. When a courier from one of these rebellions reaches the Tenth Fleet, the commander of the fleet and her staff must decide if they can trust the rebels. Convinced that the offers of aid are part of a plot to discredit the Star Empire by making it look like Manticore was abandoning its rebel allies when convenient, a detachment of the fleet races to aid the rebels. But can Tenth Fleet reach the rebels in time to save them, and does it still have the strength for its planned assault on the heart of the League’s Madras Sector after sending the detachment? Also just how many rebel movements are awaiting falsely promised Manticoran aid and what other surprises will the puppet masters behind the conflict between the Star Empire and the Solarian League unveil as Star Empire forces draw closer?
I give this book a 8 out of 10. The political and strategic planning segments are well done. So are the infantry and ground battle we see, but the space battles are far from the author’s best. As a matter of principle I don’t believe in unwinnable battles, but with the current technological advantages the Star Empire’s Navy possesses over its League counterpart, engagements between the two are basically as close to unwinnable for the League as I believe you can get. And unless the Star Empire actually starts running out of its advanced missiles--unlikely due to events that occurred in A Rising Thunder-- or the League Navy undergoes a massive technological leap, this isn’t going to change soon. If anything the aforementioned events of a Rising Thunder mean the battles will be growing even more lopsided in favor of the Empire and its allies rather than less so.