Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genres: military science fiction, science fiction
Series: Confederation #6, Peacekeeper #1
Published by DAW on October 6th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. But when she learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting, she left the military for good.
But Torin couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, she drew together an elite corps of friends and allies to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not—or would not—officially touch. Torin just hoped the one they were about to embark on wouldn’t be the death of them.
Ancient H’san grave goods are showing up on the black market—grave goods from just before the formation of the Confederation, when the H’san gave up war and buried their planet-destroying weapons...as grave goods for the death of war. Someone is searching for these weapons and they’re very close to finding them. As the Elder Races have turned away from war, those searchers can only be members of the Younger Races.
Fortunately, only the Corps Intelligence Service has this information. Unfortunately, they can do nothing about it—bound by laws of full disclosure, their every move is monitored.
Though Torin Kerr and her team are no longer a part of the military, the six of them tackling the H’san defenses and the lethally armed grave robbers are the only chance the Confederation has. The only chance to avoid millions more dead.
But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder Races and the Younger, the more she begins to fear war might be an unavoidable result.
I love Tanya Huff’s Valor series. Yes, I know it’s really called the Confederation series, but in my head, it’s the Valor series. It’s all about the valor of Staff Sergeant (eventually Gunnery Sergeant) Torin Kerr of the Confederation Marines in her fight to bring her company back alive and discover who or what is really behind the interstellar war between the Confederation and the Primacy. In addition to being absolutely kick-ass military SF, the Valor Confederation series is also a standout in the long line of SF where what we think is going on has absolutely nothing to do with what is actually going on. If you have not yet had the pleasure, start with Valor’s Choice and settle in for a marvelous read starring a terrific character with a dry, laugh-out-loud, line of snark.
But Torin’s discovery that the long-running interstellar war is really a behavioral experiment on the part of some completely uninvolved alien bystanders excises some of Torin’s faith in her military, and pretty much all of her ability to follow orders without question. However, while you can take the woman out of the Marines, it turns out to be impossible to take the Marines out of the woman. Torin works better within a structure, even as she mostly goes her own way.
In An Ancient Peace, we see Torin still fighting the good fight, but this time on her own terms, especially because she is in the process of redefining what that”good fight” really is. And since she no longer has the structure of the Marines to operate in, she is looking for a way for her team to find a home and purpose in one of the structures that already exist.
Because it turns out that the Confederation is still being manipulated, the only question is whether that manipulation is coming from somewhere within, or from forces without. Or whether “Big Yellow” is still watching them.
Escape Rating A: The Valor Confederation series is one of my all-time favorite military SF series, along with Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War, Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why, and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. These are all thinking people’s military SF, because the protagonists all question what they are doing and why, even as they do their best to operate within the structure and safeguard as much as possible the lives within their care.
The Confederation was a classic of the “aliens are pulling strings from the shadows” school of SF. At the same time, Torin Kerr offers a terrific perspective of a senior NCO in the military, even the SF military. It’s not her job to determine or execute grand strategy, it’s her job to keep green lieutenants alive long enough for them to contribute to grand strategy. And most importantly, it is her job to keep her squad alive to come back home. One of the ongoing themes of the series and especially this book is that Torin isn’t able to let go of the dead she wasn’t able to save.
That she now knows that the war was an alien scam just adds to her feelings of guilt, along with an unhealthy dose of survivor’s remorse.
But this story is about Torin both finding a place for her and her team to fit into the new universe order, but also about Torin figuring out where she fits into a team that she leads by adoption rather than by assignment. Everyone is with her because they want to be, not because someone cut them orders. And Torin has to find a slightly different leadership strategy to make it all work.
At the same time, Torin and her band of merrymakers have a job to do. The High Command still uses Torin, but as a private contractor. And this time, they are sending her team in on a job where they want plausible deniability.
Someone is selling artifacts that were stolen from the cemetery planet of one of the Elder Races. It is clear to the military that someone is hunting for the weapons of mass destruction that the H’san buried with their long-ago dead. The military is certain that whoever that someone is, their plan is to start a new universal war. And as collateral damage, they will feed into the paranoia of the Elder Races who believe that Humans and all of the other Younger Races they brought into the Confederation to fight their war for them are really too barbaric and savage to remain in the Confederation now that there is no more need for warriors.
Of course, nothing is as it seems. Not the thefts, not the supposed plot, and not even the Elder Races. However, as Torin discovers there is a whole lot of war weariness among the general inner-ring populace, especially all the members of those Elder and Middle-Races planets who were not touched by the war because the Younger Races fought it for them. Those who were very far behind the lines really are thinking that the Younger Races are uncivilized savages who should be locked into their own planets until they learn better.
Any parallels between the way that the Elder Races populations treat Torin and her team as representatives both of their races and of the returning war veterans and the way that we treat returning soldiers who have difficulty fitting back into peacetime society is certainly intended.
The story in An Ancient Peace is certainly the adrenaline-fueled adventure that I have come to know, love and expect from this series. There is also an underlying thread that Torin’s eyes have been opened, and that she sees a lot more of both sides of any problem than her superiors expect or even like. Her solution to finding a place for her team that both keeps them from being used as a weapon and helps add to the peace that she almost single-handedly created is novel, and will provide ground for interesting stories in the future.
And just like in the earlier series, whoever or whatever started this particular mess is still out there, plotting more plots, until Torin and Company finally catch up to them.