Review: “Valor’s Choice,” Tanya Huff

Pros: Moving, deft, and action-packed
Cons:
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is being forced to take her exhausted marines on a spit-and-polish diplomatic mission that they hardly seem right for. Knowing how vicious the universe tends to be, she believes she’s ready for anything and everything to go wrong. Thus, she isn’t entirely caught off guard when some of the violent native Silsviss decide that they want more than just parades and diplomatic functions from the Confederation. Did their enemies, the Others, get to the planet first? Have the Silsviss merely been putting on a bold show so far? Or is something else, something insidious, going on? Kerr is going to need every ounce of ingenuity she has–and every bit she can extract from her marines–if she wants to survive this ‘easy’ diplomatic mission.

 

In May I read The Truth of Valor, a spectacular military SF novel with one of the best female leads I’ve seen. Valor’s Choice (also available as the first half of the omnibus A Confederation of Valor) is the first book in the series (I decided I had to go back and read the whole thing), and was very nearly as good as that more recent tale.

Like pretty much every Tanya Huff novel I’ve ever read, Valor’s Choice is delightfully, entertainingly quotable.

“You’re not gambling in here, are you, Sergeant Glicksohn?”
“Wouldn’t think of it, Staff. We’re just involving our feathered friend here in a cross-cultural exchange.”
The Rakva’s crest fell. “This one thought you were teaching him to play poker?”
Torin left him to explain.

The Valor novels are definitely much more military and SF than humor, but that doesn’t stop them from making me laugh out loud frequently.

The worldbuilding is delightful. The range of alien races provides plenty of variety and fun. The diplomatic mission is a great way to introduce another race, contrast it against the ones already in the Confederation, and highlight some of the things going on with humanity. The racial differences matter with respect to the story and plot line without seeming arbitrary or overdone. I love the conceit of a Confederation of races that believes they have evolved beyond the use of violence, only to encounter an enemy so dangerous that they’re forced to induct several younger, more warlike races in order to save themselves. Humanity, obviously, is one of these races, and it’s fascinating to see how the other younger races have been integrated into the military. The species’ differences are played for laughs, sure, but they also produce a touching poignancy in places and an obstacle or resource in others.

The plotting is delightfully tight with plenty of tense action. The story pulled me in from the start and didn’t let go. Valor’s Choice is a deft, action-packed, riveting ride. Huff pulls off military combat in a manner that plays up both the dark humor and the horror of war. She makes every moment of combat compelling and terrifying. I’m looking forward to reading every last book in the series, and my only disappointment is that there aren’t another ten volumes!

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