Book Review: David Weber’s A Mighty Fortress

Posted May 21, 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 A Mighty Fortress

A Mighty Fortress


David Weber

historical fiction, military science fiction in Hardcover edition that was published by Tor Books on April 13, 2010 and has 718 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, By Heresies Distressed, A Rising Thunder, 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

Fourth in the Safehold military science fiction series that blends high tech with early 19th century weapons. It’s a war of David and Goliath proportions pitting the valiant Empire of Charis against the might and power of a corrupt Church.

My Take

It’s all so reasonable with Green Valley thrilled to be blending his marines with the Chisholmian army — their soldiers have taken Green Valley’s tactical ideas and absorbed and improved them. Cayleb is insisting that Chisholmians are treated exactly the same with the same rights and privileges as Charisians. Sharleyan has a slew of brilliant ideas for weapons and tactics.

I think Coris is playing with fire by not telling Irys who he really believes assassinated her father and brother. Merlin, at least, is a bit happier now that more people are able to communicate long-range. OWL is also starting to become more aware.

While I do enjoy Weber’s poaching from a variety of cultures for the names and this series has a cast of thousands and with the odd spellings that Weber uses that it would be very easy to screw up names. But, I’d think that Weber would keep a document noting who was what and how their names were arranged or spelt.

Weber makes an interesting distinction between the original “archangels” who subverted the original mission plan for Safehold and twisted the Holy Writ to ensure their own views. It’s useful that Nimue/Merlin knew the original Adorée Bédard and that the Bédarists of today are nothing like her, BUT they have taken her words and made them truly live by applying those words. The conversations between the two Wylsynns are truly heartwarming in their faith. Well, Samyl’s peaceful acceptance is while Hauwerd’s is more the argument I think most people (and priests) would have. Very inspiring.

I must say, Coris has a fascinating trip to Zion what with the sleighs pulled by lizards and the iceboat across the lake. A fascinating meeting between Mahklyn and Seamount discusses the minute details of what they’ve discovered so far about corning powder. I would never ha’ thunk it.

I so badly want Merlin to make a number of video clips of what the SNARCs see and somehow project the clips so it seems like a vision and the people of Safehold believe it’s a miracle…that, and I want that damn troopship!

YES! I tell ya, I think Weber dribbles out these little bits of karma just to drive ya nuts…! Oh, wow, Hauwerd Wylsynn’s death is so…heroic, sad, and hopefully, not pointless with those bloody pointless tributes that Weber throws in…dammit. What?? Has Weber got stock in a Kleenex company??

The Story

While most of the populace of Corisande believe that Cayleb murdered the Hektors, there are extremely few people in power who don’t believe that Clyntahn actually gave the orders for Prince Hektor and the crown prince’s murders. Another tiny nail in the Group of Four’s coffin. And Sharleyan is on her way home to Chisholm, if only to reassure her own people that she is safe with Archbishop Maikel soon to follow on his own tour of the empire. He has also decided to hand over Ahnzhelyk’s “twenty years’ worth of documents about the corruption within the vicarate and the Inquisition” to Wave Thunder.

The Imperial Charisian Navy (ICN) has been having it all her way for over three books. Unfortunately, someone has put the Earl of Thirsk back in the game, and the enemy shipyards are playing catch up with the newer innovations. That superiority is not going to last.

The Characters

An avatar, Merlin Athrawes, has all the knowledge of the now-vanished, highly technical Earth. The personality of Nimue Alban, a woman dead these past 900 years, has been downloaded into his circuits, and he is determined to return the original mission parameters to Safehold. He can also alter his physical appearance at will and creates a new avatar when he goes a’spying in Zion as Ahbraim Zhevons. Cayleb is the Emperor of the Star Empire of Charis with his beloved (and pregnant) Empress Sharleyan. Her personal armsman, Sergeant Edwyrd Seahamper, is the only survivor from the attack on her.

The Chisholmian side of the Empire has…
…Cherayth is its capital. Mahrak Sandyrs (Mark Sanders), Baron Green Mountain, is First Councillor in Chisholm and lover to the Queen Mother Alahnah Tayt (Alanna Tate). He’s also the equivalent of a second father to Sharleyan. Both are extremely relieved that Sharleyan and Cayleb love each other. Pawal Braynair is now the Archbishop of Cherayth in the Church of Charis. Barkah Rahskail, the Earl of Swayle, is a Temple Loyalist on the Duke of Eastshare’s staff.

General Sir Kynt Clareyk is now the Baron of Green Valley and working with Rushyl Thairis (Russel), the Duke of Eastshare, to integrate the Charisian Marines with the Chisholmian Army to create the Imperial Army. Sir Ahlber Zhustyn spies on other people while Hauwerstat Thompkyn, the Earl of White Crag, is the Lord Justice and keeps people from spying on Chisholm. Sir Lewk Cohlmyn (Luke Colman), the Earl of Sharpfield, is now the second-ranking officer in the ICN, and he’s about to get an advisor — Gharth Rahlstahn (Garth Ralston), the Earl of Mahndyr, the former Emeraldian admiral.

The Charisian side of the Empire has…
…Tellesberg as its capital. Rayjhis Yowance (Regis), Earl of Gray Harbor, is first councillor of Charis. 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. To know him, is to love him. Bishop Zherald Ahdymsyn (I’m guessing it’s a French pronunciation or “Gerald” Adamson) was Dynnys’ representative in Charis year-round; now he is Maikel’s advance man for his tour. And he impresses Archbishop Klairmant of Corisande.

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. Admiral Sir Domynyk Staynair, Baron Rock Point, has his battles to win.

Doctor Rahzhyr Mahklyn (Roger Maclin?), the Dean of the Royal College of Charis with full access to OWL, meets with Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk (Alfred Hendrick), Baron Seamount, is Safehold’s gunnery expert. It’s a catch-22 as to whether they’ll let Hyndryk have access to OWL; he’s reinventing scientific principles, and it could be distracting. 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. Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk (Alfred Hendrick), Baron Seamount, is a Navy captain and the gunnery expert of Safehold. Prince Nahrmahn Baytz (Norman Bates) of the now-province Emerald became the Imperial spymaster and his daughter is betrothed to Cayleb’s younger brother. He and his much-loved wife Ohlyvya (Olivia) are brought into the inner circle.

Admiral Sir Domynyk Staynair, Baron Rock Point, destroys the port of Ferayd for two miles and then hangs the inquisitor priests responsible. Yay!! Sir Gwylym Manthyr is bound for Hardship Bay on Claw Island in the Harchong Sea with a mandate to slow and/or destroy the Dohlar Navy. Ensign Hektor Alply-Ahrmahk, the Duke of Darcos, has a small role to play under Sir Dunkyn Yairley‘s command. He’s been helping Hektor learn the etiquette of his new station in life.

The Brethren of Saint Zherneau has guarded the journal of Saint Zherneau, a.k.a., Jeremiah Knowles, one of the original Adams and a secret adherent of Pei Shan-wei. Father Paityr Wylsynn, the Intendant in Charis, struggles as he awaits word of the fate of his family: his stepmother Lysbet, Zhanayt, Erais, Fraihman, and young Samyl Wylsynn.

The Exiles include…
Phylyp Ahzgood (Phillip Osgood), Earl of Coris, who was appointed regent to young Daivyn Daykyn, the new Prince of Corisande, albeit in exile at King Zhames‘ (James) court; he is also guardian to him and Iris, both Prince Hektor’s children. All his skills as a spymaster will be required when the Group of Four commands him to travel to Zion in the middle of winter. He does manage to find a valet along the way, Rhobair Seablanket, a fellow Corisandian. And Church spy.

Corisande has…
…Manchyr as its capital. Viceroy General Hauwyl Chermyn (Howell Sherman) is less than happy with his promotion to Viceroy of Corisande.

Cayleb has set up a ruling Regency Council of Corisandians for this newly conquered land: Sir Rysel Gahrvai, the Earl of Anvil Rock, is one of two co-regents for Prince Daivyn; Admiral Taryl Lektor, the Earl of Tartarian; Sahlahmn Traigair (Solomon Traeger), the Earl of Storm Keep; Edwair Garthin, the Earl of North Coast; Sir Raimynd Lyndahr (Raymond Lindar) is the Keeper of the Purse; Trumyn Sowthmyn (Truman Southman), the Earl of Airyth; Sir Bairmon Chahlmair, the Duke of Margo; Wahlys Hillkeeper (Wallace), the Earl of Craggy Hill; and, the new Archbishop Klairmant Gairlyng; he has his particular doubts, although one-third of the bishops and priests have accepted the Church of Charis.

Including the beloved Father Tymahn Hahskans (Timon Hoskins). Cayleb, Merlin, and a huge proportion of the populace of Manchyr love Father Tymahn and his sermons. Unfortunately, Mother Church is less than enthused that the bridle is finally off his thoughts.

Sir Koryn Gahrvai is Anvil Rock’s son and in charge of the city guard. 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 and is now putting together a troop of mounted constables to help keep the peace.

The Corisandian Conspirators include…
…Storm Keep; Craggy Hill; Rahzhyr Mairwyn (Roger), Baron Larchros; Bishop Amilain Gahrnaht and Father Airwain Yair; Bishop Mailvyn in Barcor; Bryahn Selky (Brian), the Earl of Deep Hollow; Sir Zher Sumyrs, the Baron of Barcor; and, Sir Adulfo Lynkyn (Lincoln), the Duke of Black Water.

Bishop Executor Thomys Shylair is on the run and hiding out in conspirators’ homes while Intendant Aidryn Waimyn has his own plans to foment rebellion in Corisande. And if it takes torturing a priest…well, he obviously deserves it. I hope that Merlin finds Ahlbair Cahmmyng (a French “Albert” Cumming), the thug Waimyn hired to kill the Hektors!

The Enemies include…
King Rahnyld (Ronald) of Dohlar. Samyl Cahkrayn (Samuel Cochrane), Duke of Fern, is Rahnyld’s chief councillor. Admiral Lywys Gardynyr (Lewis Gardener), Earl of Thirsk, has been recalled from his dishonor and placed in charge of building the new Dohlar Navy. Since politics are more important than ability, Thirsk is under attack by, Aibram Ziavyair (Abram Savior), Duke of Thorat, the brother of the so-very-incompetent Malikai. Thirsk finds unexpected allies in Bishop Staiphan (Stephen) and Admiral Hahlynd (Holland).

King Gorjah III of Tarot chose the wrong side when he ignored his treaty with Charis and now he’s paying for it.

Cayleb and Sharleyan are just waiting for Tohmas Symmyns (Thomas Simmons), the Grand Duke Zebediah to screw up.

Daivyn Bairaht (Devon Barret), the Duke of Kholman and Emperor Mahrys IV’s senior councilor for the Imperial Desnarian Navy conspires with Sir Urwyn Hahltar (Irwin Halter), Baron Jahras, to fulfill the Group of Four’s demands while preserving lives.

The Group of Four are…
…four priests who form a Council of Vicars, the Church’s rulers: Grand Inquisitor Zhaspyr Clyntahn (Jasper Clinton) is a gluttonous sociopath, and he is like a cat playing with a mouse, enjoying its terror. Archbishop Wyllym Rayno is the Adjutant of the Order of Schueler and Clyntahn’s executive officer. Chancellor Zahmsyn Trynair (Jameson Trainer) has seen beyond the façade that Clyntahn presents…and he’s terrified; Treasurer General Rhobair Duchairn (a French “Robert”) recognizes the danger he is in and is conflicted between following his conscience and saving his family; and, Captain General Allayn Magwair (Allan) is quite aware of his own danger.

Members of the Circle are…
…priests who oppose the corruption of the Church and include Hauwerd Wylsynn and his brother Vicar Samyl. Their feud with Clyntahn is about to come to an end and not in a good way. With no way to know who the traitor is, they cannot warn anyone, but do their best to ensure as many of their brethren are out of Zion before winter shuts the city down. Another member is Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr (Jason Connor) of Glacierheart. Father Gharth Gorjah is his longtime personal secretary and Fraidmyn Tohmys his valet (Fredman?? Thomas)

Ahnzhelyk Phonda (Angelique Fonda) is a madam running a very elite brothel in Zion as well as a very secretive spy system collecting data on priests. Her contacts with the Church cause her to implement plans laid decades ago.

The Cover and Title

This cover is very similar to By Heresies Distressed in that it has a dark background providing great contrast for the author’s name and title in silver foil. The center inset is of Merlin in his guise as Abraim in his recon skimmer as he watches a nighttime naval battle. No, this combination of events didn’t happen in this story either.

The title, A Mighty Fortress is a reference to something King Haarahld said about “the fortress of Charis is the wooden walls of her fleet” but Merlin elaborated on it: “Duty. Responsibility. Love …is the real basis of your sense of duty. …[The people of Charis]…love their kingdom. They love their emperor and empress. They love their church and their God. They love freedom, and they love each other. …that…is the true fortress of Charis”.