Book Review: David Weber’s By Heresies Distressed

Posted May 19, 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 Heresies Distressed

By Heresies Distressed


David Weber

historical fiction, military science fiction that was published by Tor Books on July 7, 2009 and has 496 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, By Schism Rent Asunder, Mission of Honor, 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

Third in the Safehold military science fiction series combining high and low tech in a battle for survival.

My Take

It’s damned scary when the topmost echelon of the one religious body on the planet is more concerned with lying and covering up, in attacking loyal church members, in destroying anyone who gets in their path to preserve their own wealth and power. The lengths to which these supposedly holy men will go…? Mind blowing. Thank god for Merlin.

That fool Group of Four is so detached from normal life and each act of treachery, the lies, the murders simply continue to pull the noose a bit tighter. It’s taking much too long for me, but, hey, I don’t have to live with these bastards. Whoa…the Group of Four must be feeling a bit vulnerable to take such a stance about the Massacre at Ferayd! Naturally, they still put their own twist on their guilt.

While the general theme is simplistic — the evil, corrupt behemoth overpowering the white-hatted little guy, Weber provides a range of characters from the strictly heroic like Cayleb to the completely evil like Clyntahn, he also gives us many, more complex characters in the supporting cast. It makes it easy to know which side to cheer for while the more complex make it truly interesting. Weber also includes vignettes on minor characters throughout this story providing a regular-guy perspective, a human interest story that brings home the impact this controversy has on everyone.

Well, that was rather Wellingtonian…not only are the Charisians using rifles much as Wellington did in the Peninuslar War, but Cayleb insists on paying the enemy populace for goods and services.

Tactics, strategy, deception, conspiracies abound. The politics range from international to internecine with weapons research and their action, battles and the strategies involved. It’s got something for everyone — well, the romance is a bit more abstract in that it’s David versus Goliath with loyalty and love for one’s friends and country. If you’ve been needing to get your heart rate up, I highly recommend the Safehold series. Heck, any of David Weber’s work will get your blood pumpin’.

Anybody else consider the evolution of “Charisian”…”christian”, perhaps?

The Story

The Group of Four’s decision to confiscate all Charisian merchant shipping has backfired in more than one country, and now they are more concerned about putting their own spin on the truth of what happened in Ferayd. A critical decision since Charisian troops seized the original documentation of the office of the inquisition and have released broadsides in every port through the world.

In the meantime, Cayleb has sailed off to Chisholm with his navy and army to lay siege to Corisande, leaving Sharleyan in charge of the empire. It should help cement the Charisian people in their love and loyalty for their new empress as well as prove to the Chisholmians that theirs is truly an equal partnership. For Sharleyan’s purpose is to blend the two countries into one, starting with their council and creating a parliament.

Hektor of Corisande is fighting the Charisian invasion of his land in a race between the Corisandians attempting to catch up with the improved weapons the Charisians are employing. Their cavalry is excellent while the Charisians are known for their maritime skills — and Cayleb is having to invade overland. Mylz Halcom is plotting with a conspirator within the palace. And the attack on Sharleyan brings her into the inner circle.

Governments, priests, and individuals are all making their own decisions on which way to fall. The Church is quite pragmatic, they will literally cut their partners if it will improve their PR. The Charisians will kill if necessary.

And the Group of Four is developing cracks.

The Characters

Merlin Athrawes is a PICA — a Personality Integrated Cybernetic Avatar — stamped with the personality of Nimue Alban, a human who died 900 years ago. S/he has accepted his mission to bring the world of Safehold back on track to the original intentions of the settlers. To do so, he has incorporated a Safehold legend of magical, powerful warriors, seijin, to explain his abilities.

Cayleb is the Emperor of the Star Empire of Charis with his beloved Empress Sharleyan, Queen of Chisholm. They continue to take the offensive to the Gang of Four vicars of Mother Church although she has not been invited into the inner circle. She is quite interested in personal firearms and she’s going to need that knowledge. Sergeant Edwyrd Seahamper is Sharleyan’s personal armsman while Father Carlsyn Raiyz (Carlson Race) is her personal confessor. The rest of Sharleyan’s guard is a mix of both Charisians and Chisholmians.

The Chisholmian side of the Empire; Cherayth is its capital
Mahrak Sandyrs (Mark Sanders), Baron Green Mountain, is First Councillor in Chisholm and the Queen Mother’s lover. He’s also the equivalent of a second father to Sharleyan. Queen Mother Alahnah Tayt (Alanna Tate) has worried that her daughter acquiesced to a marriage of state. Byrtrym (Bertram), Duke of Halbrook Hallow, is the queen mother’s brother, Sharleyan’s uncle; he provided critical support for King Sailys and built the army. He’s against the Church of Charis and very unhappy with Sharley’s marriage. Pawal Braynair is now the Archbishop of Cherayth in the Church of Charis.

The Charisian side of the Empire
Rayjhis Yowance (Regis), Earl of Gray Harbor is Cayleb’s first councillor. Bynzhamyn Raice (Benjamin Race), Baron Wave Thunder is the spymaster for the Charisian side of the kingdom.

Archbishop Maikel Staynair (Michael) is a Charisian and leads the new Church of Charis which hearkens back to the original Writ, flawed as that is. High Admiral Bryahn Lock Island (Brian), Earl of Lock Island, commands key fortifications at Tellesberg’s harbor mouth in Charis, but is not yet accepted into the inner circle.

Doctor Rahzhyr Mahklyn (Roger Maclin?) is the Dean of the Royal College of Charis with full access to OWL. Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk (Alfred Hendrick), Baron Seamount, is Safehold’s gunnery expert. 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. Prince Nahrmahn (Norman) of the now-province Emerald is now the Imperial spymaster with his daughter betrothed to Cayleb’s younger brother.

Admiral Rock Point destroys the port of Ferayd for two miles and then hangs the inquisitor priests responsible for the massacre in By Schism Rent Asunder, 2. General Chermyn (Sherman) and Brigadier Kynt Clareyk (Kent Clark) perform well on the battlefield.

The Brethren of Saint Zherneau is an exclusive and extremely secretive order of priests of every order in Mother Church. Membership is by invitation only as each member must be able to accept the truth of the church’s founding.

The Enemies
Prince Hektor of Corisande has some regrets for having started this whole mess, but if he had a choice, he’d do it again. Phylyp Ahzgood (Phillip Osgood), Earl of Coris, is Hektor’s spymaster. Sir Rysel Gahrvai (Risel? Garvey), Earl of Anvil Rock, Admiral Taryl Lektor (Terrel Lector), the Earl of Tartarian. Father Mahrak Hahlmy (Mark Holmy) is one of Bishop Executor Thomys‘ (Thomas) senior aides while Father Aidryn Waimyn (Adrian Wyman) is the intendant
with special orders from Clyntahn. Sir Koryn Gahrvai (Corin Garvey) is Anvil Rock’s son and in charge of the Corisandian army holding the pass against the Charisians. Sir Alyk Ahrthyr (Alec Arthur) is the Earl of Windshare and renowned for both his horsemanship and intrepid bravery on the battlefield. As long as it’s straightforward. He’s also Sir Koryn’s friend. Sir Charlz Doyal (Charles Doyle) is a favorite of Prince Hektor and in charge of their artillery. Sir Zher Sumyrs (Jer Summers), the Baron of Barcor, has been a soldier for 30 years, but never in action against trained soldiers; his slowness/cowardice in advancing as ordered creates problems. Sir Lyndahr Raimynd (Lindar Raymond) is Hektor’s treasurer. Crown Prince Hektor Daykyn is Hektor’s son and heir while Irys and Daivyn are his younger children.

King Rahnyld (Ronald) of Dohlar. Samyl Cahkrayn (Samuel Cochrane), Duke of Fern, is Rahnyld’s chief councillor.

Tohmas Symmyns (Thomas Simmons), the Grand Duke Zebediah has been “encouraged” to change sides.

Sir Vyk Lakyr (Vic Laker) was the commander of the garrison in the port of Ferayd, in Delferahk ruled by King Zhames (James). Zhames’ wife, Queen Hailyn (Helen), is Hector’s fourth cousin. He was in charge when the inquisitors forced a massacre of Charisian merchants and their families (see By Schism Rent Asunder). Father Styvyn Graivyr (Steven Graver) is the Office of Inquisition’s senior priest in Ferayd.

There are four priests who form a Council of Vicars, the Church’s rulers, a.k.a., the Group of Four: Grand Inquisitor Zhaspyr Clyntahn (Jasper Clinton) is a gluttonous sociopath and he is simply marking time before he destroys his enemies within the Church. He is the epitome of what is currently wrong with Mother Church. Archbishop Wyllym Rayno is the Adjutant of the Order of Schueler and Clyntahn’s executive officer. Zahmsyn Trynair (Jameson Trainer) was the true power of the Council, the Chancellor, but Clyntahn’s madness is becoming too powerful; Rhobair Duchairn (a French “Robert”), the Treasurer General, is despised by Clyntahn but Duchairn has reached his own accommodation with it; and, Allayn Magwair (Allan) is the somewhat clueless Captain General. Erek XVII is the figurehead for the Council, the Grand Vicar. The Church also has its own lands, the Knights of the Temple Lands, when they’re not administering to their flocks —Gee, I guess they must always be on their land, they sure ain’t caring for their people.

Former Bishop Mylz Halcom (Miles) is doing his best to foment rebellion in Charis. Father Ahlvyn Shumay (Alvin) is the former bishop’s aide. Traivyr Kairee (Trevor Karey) is a wealthy Charisian merchant and a member of the new parliament. He’s also a co-conspirator.

The not-quite-so-enemies in the Church include Hauwerd Wylsynn (Howard Wilson) and his brother Vicar Samyl (Samuel). The Wylsynns have spent generations feuding with the Clyntahns and have been building their own circle of friends and supporting documentation. The Circle is a mix of high and low within the priesthood and the threat to their lives is rapidly increasing.

The Fencesitters
Lord Protector Greyghor (Gregor) of Siddarmark is reluctant to come into the open but has no love for the Group of Four and has arranged for the Charisian merchant ships to be warned ahead of time. Tymahn Qwentyn (Timon Quentin) is an intimate of the Lord Protector and has a finger in every pie in Siddarmark. He’s come up with a brilliant plan to dodge the Group of Four’s interdiction of Charisian-flagged ships.

Okay, technically Ahnzhelyk Phonda (Angelique Fonda), a.k.a., Nynian, is not a fencesitter. She is actually a madam running a very elite brothel in Zion as well as a very secretive spy system collecting data. With the escalation in the Group of Four’s actions, she has some decisions to make.

“Archangels” Langhorne and Bédard prevailed and created a society which follows the Langhorne Bible religiously and forbids any innovations that may create emissions.

The Cover and Title

No. No, just ignore this cover. It’ll just get your hopes up and it just ain’t happenin’. A deep gunmetal grey with purple undertones really sets off the silver foil of the author’s name and the title. And sets the mood with the night scene of the inset image in the middle of what appears to be a transport spaceship set on a hill above a snowed-in city. Merlin Athrawes standing under the ship and preparing to signal with his katana.

The title is too accurate as both sides are By Heresies Distressed.