Book Review: David Weber’s By Schism Rent Asunder

Posted March 14, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: David Weber’s By Schism Rent Asunder

By Schism Rent Asunder


David Weber

military science fiction that was published by Tor Books on July 22, 2008 and has 510 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Mission of Honor, Insurrection, Worlds of Honor, Empire from the Ashes, Changer of Worlds, Torch of Freedom, Hell’s Gate, Hell Hath No Fury, In Fire Forged, In Fury Born, Off Armageddon Reef, Mission of Honor, By Heresies Distressed, A Rising Thunder, A Mighty Fortress, How Firm a Foundation, Fire Season, Midst Toil and Tribulation, Shadow of Freedom, House of Steel, Worlds of Weber: Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington and Other Stories, Beginnings, Like a Mighty Army, Cauldron of Ghosts, Treecat Wars, A Call to Duty, Hell's Foundations Quiver, At the Sign of Triumph

Second in the Safehold military/religious science fiction series revolving around Merlin Athrawes and his mission to help the planet of Safehold evolve into what the original pioneers had intended…if she feels that is the proper path.

My Take

Phew…another intense story from David Weber. It’s only similarity to his Honor Harrington series is that it’s science fiction. Every once in awhile, I have to try and remember that this is the same author. Dang, he’s good!

Yes, it was zealous and passionate and I suddenly realized it was 6:33 am…but I only had some 40 pages to go…! Fortunately, it wasn’t as intense as the first one, Off Armageddon Reef.

Weber has a number of parallels with our own world history: the numerous religious wars fought here versus a single planet-wide religion that was carefully created to have no conflicts; the Nazi-like repressions; and, the flat-out lying and abuse of their flock simply to maintain their own luxurious lifestyle.

It’s interesting to read the use of words on both sides to lay off blame as well as place it within the range of reactions and beliefs as to their accuracy versus heretical ranting. Weber is really going to take advantage and stress the tension to the nth degree as he teases and retreats with hope and frustration. Arghhh! I must get the next in the series, By Heresies Distressed!

I need to know if Cayleb survives this next invasion — Weber never lets you get complacent. I need Merlin to get a SNARC inside the Group of Four’s meeting place in Zion! How will the other countries jump when they learn of the two and possibly third alliance agreeing to join with Charis against the Church?? How will King Zhames react to Charisian retaliation? So many people are caught between their belief in the Church versus their acknowledgment of its corruption. Then there’s that new group of priests working to gather evidence against the Group of Four…does anyone wonder if there’s a connection to the Chinese Gang of Four from the early 20th century?? The assassination attempt against the archbishop. I love Merlin’s sneaky ideas!

I love, love, love Dynnys’ speech just before his execution. I sure hope it has greater reverberations than it has yet…!

Then there’s the revelations from Archbishop Maikel and his super-secret group that prompts Merlin’s own revelations. One of the sore points for Cayleb with the Group of Four was their backing (after some serious cash exchanged hands) of Tahdayo Mahntayl as the new Earl of Hanth. A totally spurious appointment. It’s important now because Mahntayl finally sees the writing on the wall and abandons the county he paid so much for leaving the beleaguered Bishop Mylz Halcom to abandon his post in Hanth and head for Tellesberg to plot and destroy.

I love it when Wave Thunder reveals to Nahrman exactly how detailed is the information they have on everything Narhman has done over the past few months! Snarkkkk!

Then, of course, there is the age-old proverb: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” and, in this story, the Church has reigned supreme for the entire history of this world. Supreme and so powerful that they think nothing of ordering the destruction of an entire country, like choosing which pair of shoes to wear today.

Now, of course, they’re on the defensive, especially after receiving the communique from the new Archbishop of Charis.

The Story

The second indication the Council of Vicars receives that their world has changed is the interception of Father Rahss (Ross) Sawal’s courier ship and the messages he carries. No Charisian will allow a Temple courier to pass unhindered. Not now.

It’s a complicated back-and-forth as Cayleb and his people push forward to protect their own lands as they prepare to invade others and gathering up unexpected allies as they go. Their enemies are doing their own dashing with varying degrees of success as they absorb their crushing defeat. And the Church refuses to admit to any of their wrongdoing, preferring to spread propaganda and increase the violence against an innocent group of people who are preparing their own defenses.

Privateers sanctioned and partially funded by the King Cayleb harass and destroy the shipping of Charis’ enemies. Archbishop Maikel forces Merlin to don a disguise with him and accompany him to a shabby monastery. A move that brings that day into reality in which Merlin confesses all to Cayleb. The technical issues have calmed down and now revolve around solving the metal issue of bronze, iron, or wrought iron for cannons, what to use to maintain the rifling grooves in both cannon and rifles, and projectile shapes. A new Imperial spymaster.

Most of the planet is concerned with the text of the letter sent by the new archbishop and all but four of her bishops setting the Church of Charis aside from the Council of Vicars’ jurisdiction. The same letter distributed throughout their world. Everyone on the planet sees through the fiction of the “Knights of the Temple Lands” who began this.

A little complication…Larys Shaikyr is the master of the galleon Raptor charged by the emperor with attacking enemy shipping with the men receiving one-fourth of the prize money. Hahl Urbahn is his first officer, Dunkyn Hyndyrs is the purser and they are working as a squadron with Slash Lizard, War Hammer, Windcrest, and Sea Kiss. The convoy they subdue is a bit more than expected — gold and silver bullion belonging to the Church. A nice chunk that one-fourth; even better if it’s 100-percent.

Revenge for the massacre at Ferayd results in Admiral Rock Point leading 30-some ships of the Imperial Navy to attack the harbor.

The Characters

Seijin Merlin Athrawes is the male version of Nimue Alban, a PICA now, a human 900 years ago. As Cayleb’s bodyguard, he’s got his work cut out for him along with the planet-wide net of SNARCs he has to review 24/7.

Cayleb Zhan Haarahld Bryahn Ahrmahk (Caleb Jean Harold Brian Armac) is now King Cayleb II of Charis. Young and grieving his father’s death, but determined to push ahead and protect his country by any means. Ahrnahld Falkhan (Arnold Falcon), a Charisian Marine, is now in charge of the new Crown Prince Zahn‘s security. Sergeant Payter Faircaster has transferred into the [king’s] Guard from Cayleb’s prince’s guard to ensure Merlin’s security.

Rayjhis Yowance (Regis), Earl of Gray Harbor, is his first councillor while Zhefry Ahbaht (Jeffrey Abbott) is his personal secretary. Ahlvyno Pawalsyn (Alvino?? Paulson), Baron Ironhill, is the Keeper of the Purse charged with figuring out how to pay for a whole lot more ships, weapons, and the men to man those ships and become the Charisian Army. Bynzhamyn Raice (Benjamin Race), Baron Wave Thunder, is his spymaster. Sir Rhyzhard Seafarmer (Richard) is Wave Thunder’s second-in-command. Archbishop Maikel Staynair (Michael) is a Charisian and an honest man with a humongous and sacrilegious secret. High Admiral Bryahn Lock Island (Brian), Earl of Lock Island, commands key fortifications at Tellesberg’s harbor mouth in Charis. Ehdwyrd Howsmyn (Edward Houseman) “owns two of the kingdom’s three largest foundries and one of the largest shipyards and a small fleet of merchant ships; his wife, Zhain (Jane), is the daughter of an earl with a very well-developed sense of the social dynamics of Tellesberg and Charis. Raiyan Mychail (Ryan Michael) is the Royal Navy’s primary sailmaker. Sir Dustyn Olyvyr (Dustin Oliver) is one of the top ship designers and the “chief naval constructor of the Royal Charisian Navy”. Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk (Alfred Hendrick), Baron Seamount, is a Navy captain and the gunnery expert of Safehold.

Commander Paitryk Hywyt (Patrick Hewitt) of the Royal Charisian Navy with HMS Wave‘s first lieutenant, Zhak Urvyn (Zak or Jacques? Ervin/Irvin) make the first interception of a Church courier. Admiral Sir Domynyk Staynair, (Dominic) newly created Baron of Rock Point, is being quite successful in his endeavors. Captain Sir Dunkyn Yairley (Duncan) of HMS Destiny seems to have a sixth sense; he leads the attack on the port at North Bay in Emerald. One of his midshipmen, Master Midshipman Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk, is also a new duke of the realm and adopted into the royal family of Charis. He was the lad who tried to save King Haarahld. Colonel Hauwerd Greygart (Howard) of the Royal Charisian Marines is the new Earl of Hanth. Brigadier Kynt Clareyk (Kent Clark??) is a Marine and has devised the first field artillery tactics and the needed training manual to integrate it with the new infantry. Lieutenant Layne (Lane) is his second-in-command and in charge of the ongoing training program.

Doctor Rahzhyr Mahklyn (Roger Maclin?), Dean of the Royal College of Charis, no longer has a choice about the king’s insistence that they move. His daughter Ardhyn and her husband Sir Lairync Kestair and another daughter Tairys Kahnklyn and her husband Aizak Kahnklyn (the college’s official librarians) must come along with. Aidryn and Eydyth and her twin Zhoel (13) are their children. Erayk is another grandchild. They think another son, Thomys, will be just fine with the move, when he shows up again.

Father Paityr Wylsynn (Peter Wilson) is the intendant (inquisitor) in Charis and Bishop Executor Zherald Ahdymsyn (A French “Gerald”?? Adamson) was Dynnys’ representative in Charis year-round who were both “kept safe” until they decided which way to jump. Father Paityr opens the first-ever Patent Office! Erayk Dynnys (Eric Dennis) was the Archbishop of Charis who found God again. His wife Adoria and two sons, Tymythy Erayk (Timothy Eric) and Styvyn (Steven) find refuge in Charis. Madame Ahnzhelyk Phonda was Dynnys’ mistress, a friend of his wife, and the proprietor of a very high-class whore house in Zion. Hmmmm, a plot between the two ladies?

Father Zhon Byrkyt (Jean Burckett) is the Abbot of Saint Zherneau’s, a super-secret brethren composed of any and all orders which has existed since year one. Holding a most unexpected Testimony from one of the original Adams, Jeremiah “Jere” Knowles. Jere and several others were one of Pei Shan-wei’s lines of defense.

Captain Ekohls Raynair is master and half-owner of the Blade, a privateer sailing off Dohlar’s coast with her fellow ships, the Ax, Cutlass, and the Dirk. His current occupation is part patriotic, part capitalist, and wholly revenge.

Traivyr Kairee is a Charisian industrialist with no concern for his workers; he’s also a Temple Loyalist.

Queen Sharleyan Tayt (Shirleyanne?? Charlaine? Tate) of Chisholm receives a very interesting offer from the new King of Charis. I love that she refuses to hand Gray Harbor over to the Bishop Executor!! Byrtrum, Duke Halbrook Hollow, is her uncle and while she greatly appreciates what he has done to help her stay alive and on the throne, in all good conscience, she must go forward with this decision despite his beliefs in Mother Church. Sergeant Edwyrd Seahamper is the Queen’s personal armsman while Captain Gairaht (Garret) is in charge of the Queen’s security. Mahrak Sandyrs (Mark Sanders), Baron Green Mountain, is First Councillor in Chisholm and remains behind to help rule Chisholm. Sir Lewk Cohlmyn (Luke Colman), Earl of Sharpfield and the senior admiral for the Chisholm Navy.

Prince Nahrmahn Hanbyl Graim Baytz (Norman Hannibal Graham Bates) of Emerald is in a very bad position with no navy left and a tight blockade on his ports; he does a truly excellent summing up of where everything stands now. His wife Princess Ohlyvya (Olivia) is quite pragmatic about the offer from Charis. Baron Hahl Shandyr (Hal Sander?) is his spymaster. Trahvys Ohlsyn (Travis Olson), Earl of Pine Hollow, is his chief councillor while Commodore Hainz Zhaztro (Hans?? Zastro??) is the most senior officer to return from the battle. He is quite single-minded about rebuilding the Emeraldian Navy. Hanbyl Baytz, (Bates) the Duke of Solomon, is Nahrmahn’s uncle and the head of the Emerald Army with as sharp a wit as his nephew, but much less desire to play the “game”.

Prince Hektor Daykyn of Corisande hates the Charisians. His son Hector is the heir and sounds like he’s not too bright unlike his sister Irys who has it out for Charis. Phylyp Ahzgood (Phillip Osgood), Earl of Coris is his spymaster. Sir Lyndahr Raimynd (Raymond) is the treasurer with some novel ideas on how to raise the funds to rebuild the Navy and arm their military. Sir Taryl Lektor, the Earl of Tartarian is now the senior ranking admiral of the Corisandian Navy, what’s left of it anyway. Rysel, Earl of Anvil Rock and his son Koryn (Corin) with Charlz Doyal (Charles Doyle) have been working hard to build and train three batteries of the new cannon. Captain Myrgyn managed to get sketches of the “new gun mounts and carriages and bagged powder charges”; they even have a captured Charisian ship with the new cannon. Oops. Tohmys Symmyns (Thomas Simmons) is the Grand Duke of Zebediah solely due to the grace of Hektor since he conquered and subjugated it. Still doesn’t mean he’s one of Hektor’s supporters.

King Rahnyld IV (Ronald) of Dohlar has a Charisian price on his head and rapidly losing every ship he ever launched to…huh…Charisian privateers. Samyl Cahkrayn (Samuel Cochrane), Duke of Fern, is Rahnyld’s chief councillor and in constant communication with the Gang of Four. Former Admiral Lywys Gardynyr (Lewis Gardener), Earl of Thirsk, was second-in-command of the Dohlar Navy sent out to ravage Charis. Now Malikai’s brother-in-law, the Duke of Thorast, and the king have beached him for…well, obviously it must be incompetence. There’s no way Malikai will accept that his incompetent brother could have screwed up!?! Admiral Pawl Hahlynd (Paul Holland) believes in Thirsk and comes to him for advice.

Tahdayo Mahntayl, the new Earl of Hanth, is on the run. Leaving one of the few bishops, Mylz Halcom, not to sign onto Archbishop Maikel’s letter at loose ends and not inclined to stay with his flock. He’d much rather promote sedition and destroy what he can in Tellesberg. A very “Christian” thing to do. Father Ahlvyn Shumay (Alvin) is his personal aide.

Sir Vyk Lakyr is the senior officer in charge of Ferayd’s military garrison in the kingdom of Delferahk. The Group of Four order him to mount an attack and sequester all Charisian merchant ships in the city’s harbor. An attack that doesn’t go as planned…do they ever?? King Zhames (James) of Delferahk can look forward to a miserable future after the attack on Charisian shipping. Edmynd Walkyr is the master of the merchant galleon Wave. His wife Lyzbet, his oldest son Greyghor,his brother Zhorj, brother-in-law Lywys, and his youngest brother Michail works and travels with him even in these trying times. Even in Ferayd, there is an underlying hostility. The officers aboard the Kraken are also uneasy: Kevyn Edwyrds, first lieutenant, and Captain Hairys Fyshyr manage to fight back and rescue nine other ships. When the Imperial Navy returns to let Ferayd know of their…displeasure…Lakyr sends Captain Thomys Kairmyn out of town with the evacuees.

Sir Rayjhis Dragoner (Regis ??) is the Charisian ambassador to Siddarmark. Deeply unhappy about the break between Mother Church and his country, he’s torn about the oblique warning he’s given by Rolf Khailee, a.k.a., Lord Avrahm Hywstyn (Abram Houston), the Lord Protector Greyghor‘s fourth cousin. A troubleshooter for the Lord Protector.

Four priests form a Council of Vicars, a.k.a., the Group of Four, the Church of God Awaiting’s extremely corrupt and self-serving rulers: Zhaspyr Clyntahn (Jasper Clinton) is the Grand Inquisitor as well as a glutton with the ability to turn any mishap to suit his narrow-minded view; Zahsyn Trynair (Jason Trainer??) is the true power of the Council, the Chancellor; Rhobair Duchairn (a French “Robert”? ??) who has also found God but not his balls is the Treasurer General; and, Allayn Magwair (Allan ??) is the Captain General. Erek XVII is the Grand Vicar in name only.

Vicar Samyl Wylsynn meets with 20-odd other priests in Zion to relate the truth about the massacre in Ferayd. It’s an underground group fighting to gather evidence, waiting the day they can overturn the Group of Four. Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr, Vicar Gairyt Tanyr, Vicar Hauwerd Wylsynn, Vicar Chiyan Hysin, Vicar Lywys Holdyn, Erayk, and Foryst.

The Cover and Title

It’s a rather subdued Baen cover with its deep-burgundy rising into a black gradient background and a lime green bordered viewport of a window of Merlin floating above the planet in his skimmer as per the opening scene in the book.

The title is sadly true for By Schism Rent Asunder is the fate of this planet for the Gang of Four simply can’t give up their “perks”. Certainly not to care for their flock!