Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon: a review

Surprised to find that upon re-reading this book (for the third or fourth time, actually) I’ve increased its rating by a whole star.

I have some problems with the Familias framework Moon created for this series of books. In particular, many of the principal characters in these stories come from extremely privileged backgrounds, and much of the discussion is framed as arguments about status within the privileged classes. All of that is actually kind of fun, but it’s a little disconcerting to find those games driving what are at heart military action tales.

Others, judging from the reviews, find the horses in these tales offensive. I don’t. And folks who don’t want to read about brutality really should avoid this class of novel; it comes with the territory. At least in Moon’s books, it’s presented as offensive.

That said: Moon is a master plotter, an efficient writer, and truly excellent at character creation. This is a complex novel on several levels. Besides the warfare, there are two very different political environments, fleet politics, family disagreements, on-board relationships, and a young woman finding herself. Moon integrates these various threads more effectively than anyone else writing military SF. I like this stuff; wish she’d return to it.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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