Kris Longknife – Daring (Kris Longknife IX) – Mike Shepherd

United Sentients, led by Wardhaven, takes action to find the cause for the Iteeche ships that are disappearing, a topic introduced in Undaunted. Kris, as commander of a patrol squadron, is ordered to lead an exploration into very deep space. Various other states, prominently including the Greenfeld Empire, decide they need to go along. Kris finds herself in the lead of a rather large fleet of exploration, though not in command. The political machinations make her life complicated. The main action starts when the fleet actually finds a race of aliens who devastate and plunder other civilizations. Any attempt at contact is met by immediate aggression. Kris must now save a race that is not even aware of humanity’s existence, and survive in order to report her findings.

This is the first time since Defiant that the series has set our heroes with their backs to the wall in a real win or die situation with immense stakes. Kris must battle the demons of her past to do the right thing, even if her actions will likely lead to condemnation on her return to base. Shepherd skillfully continues developing Kris as a heroine who deserves happiness but whose background and sense of duty prevent it. Unlike many other long series, Shepherd dares to reinvent this one and kill off key characters, keeping the whole thing fresh and exciting.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Training Daze (Kris Longknife III½) – Mike Shepherd

This novella fills in some of the events following Kris Longknife – Defiant. Kris and her cohorts are tasked to set up a training command for foreign navies buying Wardhaven’s fast attack boats.

It’s a cute little piece with plenty of banter between the now familiar main characters, in particular Kris and Jack. How the latter was drafted into the Marines is explained in humorous detail.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Undaunted (Kris Longknife VII) – Mike Shepherd

The seventh book in the Kris Longknife series has Kris still in charge of the exploratory ship Wasp. She blunders into an encounter with an Iteechee vessel. The Iteechee are a race with which humanity had a war 80 years previously. They are so mysterious that the causes of the war are still essentially unknown. Naturally, Kris’ great-grandparents Raymond Longknife and “Trouble” were involved at the time.

This is one of the better installments. Good strong plot even though it does take a massive detour in the middle. Lots of conversation, as per usual, but it doesn’t seem forced. Shepherd has collected an enjoyable cast of characters to play foil to Kris.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Intrepid (Kris Longknife VI) – Mike Shepherd

In Intrepid, Kris finally has her own ship command. She is on a mission to explore the outer rim and show the flag of Wardhaven/United Sentients. She discovers a plot against her arch enemies, the Peterwalds, and also a plundering expedition launched on an agrarian colony. Lots of ground pounding action anchors this book, with the Marines picked up in Audacious playing a starring role.

This may be my favorite thus far. Any hint of the tentative beginning of the series is gone. The characters are well fleshed out and the plot is interesting. Shepherd has also managed to round out the political background and it is no longer quite as vague. The “we are so clever” conversations are toned down in favor of action; a good development. This one is a real page turner.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Audacious (Kris Longknife V) – Mike Shepherd

In Audacious, Kris is sent to Eden, an old and conservative colony world where her native and cosmopolitan Wardhaven is thought of as very much a backwater. The plot seems absent at the start, apart from the by now de rigeur repeated attempts on Kris’ life. As usual, the Peterwalds are trying to take over. As usual, Kris Longknife is in the way.

While the series cannot live forever on repetitive plots somewhat varied, the characters do carry this book along like they did the others. The added wrinkle of a glimpse into Abby’s past is a nice bonus. The sometimes strained praise of Marines is oddly both fun and tiresome. After five books, I would happily read more. But just as I did after Resolute, I can’t help but wonder where it is all going in the end.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Resolute (Kris Longknife IV) – Mike Shepherd

In Resolute, Kris is put in charge of an out of the way naval district assignment on the frontier. In a sub-plot, she finds ancient alien ruins. But the real action is a “fleet visit” from the Greenfeld navy commanded by her old nemesis Hank Smythe Peterwald. In short, the Greenfeld fleet is trying to engender a crisis on the planet as an pretext to take over.

While not quite as good as Defiant, Resolute continues the development of Kris and her cohorts as characters. One wonders where it is all going in the end, but the ride is entertaining.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Defiant (Kris Longknife III) – Mike Shepherd

In Defiant, Kris must face an imminent threat to her planet. Betrayed by incompetent politicians, she skirts the law to organize the archetypal rag-tag flotilla in defense of Wardhaven as a massive force of hostile warships approaches.

Defiant is a further improvement over the first two books. From the viewpoint of Defiant the first two books, while perfectly capable of standing on their own, seem almost like a prologue. Kris comes into her own as she finally commands a large force. Themes of destiny and sacrifice are neatly explored in Shepherd’s quirky, humorous prose. With this installment, Kris Longknife has gone from merely entertaining to page-turning.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Deserter (Kris Longknife II) – Mike Shepherd

A marked improvement over Mutineer, Deserter has Kris Longknife run to the rescue of her best friend Tom. The story is a bit hazy, with an “evil dude” trying to kill Kris. Mayhem ensues. As a little side note, the title is only vaguely descriptive. I guess they had to come up with something in one word.

The story flows more smoothly in this second installment. There is a lot (and I do mean a LOT) or banter between the main characters. Many other books would have sagged under the weight of all that conversation, but Shepherd is skilled at conversations between intelligent, witty people. Real people probably don’t talk that way, but strangely that doesn’t detract from the fun.

Some aspects of Mutineer still hold true. This is very much space opera and all about the characters. Mostly fun action with engaging characters who have real flaws.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Mutineer (Kris Longknife I) – Mike Shepherd

Ensign Longknife is the scion of a great family. Her father is the Prime Minister of an important world. Her grandparents and great grandparents are equally exalted. She tries to defy family tradition, only to find that she is following it in her own way. Most of the book sets up her character for the final part where she forestalls a serious crisis by becomeing the book’s titular mutineer. Longknife is definitely a rich girl, and she has had all the advantages and disadvantages of that heritage. She is not perfect, and therein lies much of her charm. Shepherd takes pains to explain how she has become who she is. And it is important since her character shapes the story greatly.

The backstory is very dense, but Shepherd only gives it to us from Longknife’s perspective. The volume of information about politics, family history and human history coming at the reader is at times almost overwhelming. I was half tempted to start taking notes. It is a fine line that Shepherd walks. On the one hand the backstory is important to the main action. On the other hand he risks alienating the reader. Still, it is refreshing to see an author avoid the dreaded datadumps that Weber and even Flint are using nowadays. Now those will bore a reader. At least here the action keeps moving forward as the author correctly assumes that the reader can handle the flood without needing his hand held through painstaking and tedious exposition of half a dozen arguments and counter-arguments. Kudos to Shepherd.

The technology is very space operatic with nothing very surprising. The quirks are really in service of the plot. Shepherd treads a fine line as deus ex machina threatens but he avoids breaking the rules of his own oniverse once he has set them.

While this isn’t exactly the beginning of the Honor series, it is quite an auspicious start. Kris Longknife is a fascinating and engaging character.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.

Kris Longknife – Redoubtable (Kris Longknife VIII) – Mike Shepherd

In this, the 8th book of the series, Kris Longknife is still aboard the scoutship Wasp, now in command of a squadron of scoutships with a vague exploratory and anti-pirating mission “beyond the rim”. They come across a planet taken over by thugs, then move on to more serious problems.

While it does move the macrostory of Kris, Vicky and the Iteechee connection forward ever so slightly, this book doesn’t really have much more than some half-decent action stories. Still fun if, like me, you are by now into Kris Longknife, but not unforgettable by any means.

Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.