Book Review: David Weber’s How Firm a Foundation

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 How Firm a Foundation

How Firm a Foundation


David Weber

historical fiction, military science fiction that was published by Tor Books on September 13, 2011 and has 607 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, A Mighty Fortress, 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

Fifth in the Safehold military science-fiction series that combines high tech with early 19th century technology in a setting of religious warfare.

How can you tell evil? They’re willing to kill anyone. Anyone not on their side is a heretic; anyone on their side is a martyr.

My Take

I hate David Weber. I was hoping that he’d finally conclude this series with this book and, while it appears to be getting close, I find I have to wait for the next installment…! Arghhhh!!! It’s making me crazy! This series is so compelling! I’ve just spent from 2 to 9:30 reading non-stop with my heart pounding! If I had number six in my hands, I’d have kept right on going. As it is, I’ll just have to wait until September 18, 2012 for Midst Toil and Tribulation.

I still don’t see why Merlin couldn’t have taken that troop transport out and saved Sir Gwyllym and his men. He could have wiped out their “escort” and gone home with the boys, leaving the Group of Four to twiddle their thumbs!

AND, he’s left us with the Siddarmarkians facing a horrible winter, beset on at least two sides. I’ll kill him. Can’t he write any faster!??

Now that I have that out of the way…this was excellent. Weber really knows how to grab hold and force tremendous amounts of empathy, anger, and a modicum of joy as Cayleb, Sharleyan, and all the rest of the Charisians thumb their noses at those corrupt, vicious bastards. That’s not to say there aren’t a number of extremely close calls…gasp, gasp, gasp… Gimme a minute to catch my breath…

Tricky bugger the way he introduced us to a humble Charisian and his family who had fled Charis because he disagreed with the Church of Charis and then brought us back in touch with him again at the end when the so-very self-righteous Temple Loyalists were beating, burning, and raping their way through town. I must confess I don’t know how Cayleb and Sharleyan can resist blowing up their own prisoners. I understand the reasons why they aren’t, but… And Thirsk. How much you wanna bet before Thirsk decamps!?? Just as soon as he can get his family outta town… There are numerous vignettes Weber provides giving us a humane insight into many of the minor (and more minor!) characters in this story. Weber just keeps dragging us in; as well as padding out the book!

I keep being confused. In the same paragraph, Weber says it’s been 1,000 years and then he turns around and says nine centuries. In any world, that just doesn’t add up. I do wish he’d pick a range and stick to it.

There’s a lovely bit in which Maikel and Paityr discuss vocation and faith. And another in which Paityr reveals the real strength, as he sees it, of Maikel’s faith.

The Story

Merlin and OWL are testing the kinetic bombardment platform to determine at what point the weaponry might be activated. Meanwhile, there are a lot of sea crossings for Sharleyan and young Alahnah as she represents the Empire of Charis at the sentencing in Zebehdiah and Corisande while Cayleb is returning to Tellesberg.

Besides executions, it’s acts of sabotage and torture. What the Inquisition plans for the prisoners will affect how Charisians treat any priests of the inquisition. And lends weight to threats of what could happen to ships’ companies if port cities do not surrender.

Naval battles against other ships and fortresses. The evolution of weapons. Merlin’s concerns with the possibility of other PICAs hidden below Zion. The insurrection in Siddarmark where the quarters populated by Charisians — Charisians who fled because they did not agree with the Church of Charis — were annihilated. Assassinations…some successful, some not. Rescue missions.

The Cover and Title

The cover is lightening up almost like a sunrise with copper blending up into the darkest night at the top. In the center is an inset image of another naval battle while Merlin looks on from where he kneels under his recon skimmer watching. I’m going to guess it’s a metaphor for OWL and the many SNARCs scattered around this world.

It is How Firm a Foundation that Cayleb and Sharleyan are creating for what we can only hope will be a new world.