This week I decided to review Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Ambition, written by Yoshiki Tanaka and translated by Daniel Huddleston.
The series focuses on two admirals on opposing sides of a war between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, founded by slaves escaping the Empire, which has raged for over 150 years since the new nations reestablished contact. On the side of the Empire is Reinhard Von Lohengramm, an ambitious young admiral plotting to seize control of the empire then reform it to remove the corruption that has festered since its founding five centuries ago. Opposing him is Yang Len-wi, who has made a career of anticipating his enemy's moves and salvaging disastrous Alliance defeats, often inflicted by Reinhard and his immediate subordinates.
When the story begins, Reinhard is preparing to ignite a civil war against the noble families he needs to eliminate in order to clear his path to power. But to prevent the Alliance from taking advantage of the Empire's internal conflict, Reinhard arranges a prisoner exchange to slip an agent into the Alliance to spark a civil war within the enemy nation. The fighting in the Imperial Civil War favors Reinhard from the beginning as the egos of the nobles hinder their ability to coordinate their forces and their willingness to obey the orders of the admiral appointed to command their navy.
But tensions begin to rise in Reinhard's camp after Siegfried Kircheis, Reinhard's oldest friend, returns from a campaign against the nobles on the fringes of the Empire only to discover that Reinhard has allowed a noble attack to kill millions in order to gain more support from the empire's civilian population. Meanwhile, Yang anticipates Reinhard's plan to turn the Alliance against itself but, despite his warnings, a coup dedicated to granting the military control of the Alliance, in many ways echoing the coup that led to the founding of the Empire, seizes control of Heinessen, the Alliance's capital, with the father of Yang's primary aide leading the coup.
But when the civilian population begins to protest against the coup, peaceful protest soon becomes a military-sparked massacre with an old friend of Yang's caught in the forefront of the storm. Yang moves to end the coup but fleets loyal to the renegades block his path and are positioned to strike his supply lines, and even if his forces reach the capital the most powerful network of fortifications in the Alliance awaits them.
I give this book a 9.5 out of 10. It does a great job balancing the political maneuverings and the battles, but there are a few flaws. First, the battles tend to focus too much in the big picture. The fleets are so huge that you could never see the battles from even a handful of ship's or fighter's perspectives without single battles becoming the length of an encyclopedia, but it would be nice to get to know more of the characters who aren't tied to the admirals or high ranking politicians. Also, while very few characters are outright evil, in my opinion the author does a lousy job trying to give the few evil characters any motivation or justification for their action beyond them being able to do what they wish.