An Ancient Peace (Confederation VI) – Tanya Huff

After the events in The Truth of Valor, which can be thought of as a bridge book between two subseries, Torin and some of the veterans from her service in the Marines, as well as her partner Craig, are set up as roving agents for the Justice Department. They are given a mission to chase down graverobbers attempting to fence ancient weapons of the H’san, nowadays a peaceful spieces but immensely powerful.

Ms. Huff’s trademark humour and adeptness at interpersonal relationship shine through in what is the start of a new trilogy in the confederation universe. Torin struggles with her new civilian identity, but finds her place as the leader of a small, dedicated team.

Valor’s Trial (Confederation IV) – Tanya Huff

The fourth Confederation novel has Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr being taken prisoner, and waking up in a very odd prison. Against insurmountable odds, she leads a band of Marines (and eventually others) towards escape.

This is the best one so far. Huff’s skill at describing the interpersonal relationships between the many varied characters shines throughout the novel. The dry humor and spot-on characterizations make this a pleasure to read. Also, despite the plot being cookie cutter on paper, it has many original and intriguing aspects. The macrostory is interesting in itself, but there is not much need to it. I would be happy reading about Torin’s adventures even without that sort of framing.

The Heart of Valor (Confederation III) – Tanya Huff

Torin Kerr is now a Gunnery Sergeant. She is assigned to babysit a Major who has recently recovered from very serious injuries, and who has arm bones made of experimental plastics. They travel to Crucible, the Marine Corps training planet, and embed with a training platoon going through their rotation. Things soon start to go wrong as the Crucible systems go out of control. In parallel, Torin’s now boyfriend, a salvage operator she met in The Better Part of Valor, investigates a possible alien infiltration of the Confederation.

This volume was a disappointment after the well crafted fun of the first two novels. The plot is very contrived. The alien invasion infiltration elements do not mesh well with the action parts. Other seemingly random elements are neither entertaining, not pertinent to plot advancement or character development. The “how cool are we Marines” dialogue, fun in the previous installments, has gone totally over the top. It grated on my nerves constantly. The novel’s saving grace are the action scenes, which are up to the high standard set by the first two novels, and the strongly fleshed out characters.

The Better Part of Valor (Confederation II) – Tanya Huff

The second book in the Confederation Series has recently promoted Gunnery Sergeant Kerr getting her “reward” for seeing through General Morris in the previous book. Along with a scratch team, she is sent to assist in the exploration of a vast alien ship of unknown origin. As they are stranded on board, the ship continually seems to change the environment in order to test the team.

This book is worth a read for the same reason as it’s predecessor. The characters are well rounded and well described. The dialogue and other interactions are both funny and believable. Most importantly, the story is a real page turner.

Note: This book is collected in the “A Confederation of Valor” omnibus.

Valor’s Choice (Confederation I) – Tanya Huff

Torin Kerr is a First Sergeant in the Confereration Marines. A century and a half previously, Earth was contacted by the alien Confereration. It seemed the Confederation was in a bit of a pickle. An enemy known as The Others was attacking Confederation worlds. But the alien civilizations in the Confederation were all basically pacifists. There was a need to recruit warlike races to wage war. Humans were the first of these races, and thus the military forces follow what is basically a human model. Since then, the di’Taykan and the Krai have also joined the military races. In this, the first of the novels, our hero is the senior NCO on a diplomatic mission aimed at securing the membership of a fourth military race. But something goes horribly wrong and her platoon is forced to make a heroic last stand with limited equipment and no support.

I didn’t need the afterword to tell me that the battle in the book was based on the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, one of the defining moments of the Anglo-Zulu War and immortalized in the classic film Zulu. One could not ask for a better framework on which to mount the story. Ms. Huff’s characters are funny, self-deprecating, enjoyable to read about. The dialogue is particularly stellar, and typically had me smile and snorting. The underlying theme of how the grunts must bear the attempts to kill them of not only the enemy, but also of the brass and the politicians is hardly orginal, but Ms. Huff treats this theme with razor sharp wit without diluting its importance and impact. Our heroine is hard as nails but disarmingly human, as evidenced by her accidental indiscretion on the very first page. A great read.

Note: This book is collected in the “A Confederation of Valor” omnibus.

The Truth of Valor (Confederation V) – Tanya Huff

The fifth Confederation novel sees Torin retired from the Marine Corps and starting to make a living as a salvage operator together with her boyfriend Craig Ryder. All seems to be going fine until pirates grab Craig and she must rescue him.

The characterization is as good as ever in this series. Unfortunately the plot is a not very entertaining compared to past installments. The cool military bits are missing. This is more or less a spy novel, and not a very good one at that. I would love to see Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr back in uniform for the next installment, but I fear it will not happen. Also, Ms. Huff has all this great backstory going on with the plastic aliens, but hardly uses it for more than character development.