Just My Opinion: At the Sign of Triumph

I’m a huge David Weber fanboy.

Scratch that. I’m a huge fan of his Honor Harrington series, as well as of some of his other works.

The Safehold series, of which At the Sign of Triumph is part… not so much.

It’s well-written, but it really suffers from two major issues:

1-Unwarranted Doorstopper Syndrome. It’s, so far, nine big books long… for a series that could probably have been pared down to maybe six medium-sized books. The problem is that Weber really wants to give the readers at least a quick look at every major engagement in a world-spanning war. Which leads to a lot of awfully formulaic “Character X’s viewpoint of Battle Y, whose outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion.” That’s bad enough… but then there’s problem 2.

2-Tech-Driven Lack of Tension: The main conceit of the series is the rapid reintroduction of various bits and pieces of technology. The good guys benefit from that, while the bad guys are effectively opposing the introduction of that tech. Then to compound that, the main protagonist has indistinguishable-from-magic levels of tech available to her as well.

Which means that those near-identical battles? They’re almost always of the “bad guys show up, get curbstomped by whatever new toy the good guys have this week.”

I think Weber wanted to show the entirety of the conflict and the detail of the evolution of military tech… which is interesting from a very dry worldbuilding/world management perspective, but really makes most of the books in the series feel the same. And At the Sign of Triumph, despite being at least the end point of the first major arc of the series, doesn’t buck the thread.

There’s a supposedly big military conflict looming for most of the book – but it gets neutered by a simple intelligence ploy (in a series where the bad guys’ spies have been ridiculously ineffective from day one.) There’s one last series of naval battles which are just a victory lap for the good guys’ navy (because the naval war was conclusively won at least two or three books ago.) And ultimately the big bad gets taken down for the count in a handful of pages by minor characters, yet another application of magic tech, and a logical but utterly undramatic series of events… which coincidentally doesn’t resolve the core conflict of the book, so that another series taking place 25 years later can be written on the same premise.

So… not a recommendation, unless you have an enormous amount of free time available, or a passion for the nitty-gritty of Age of Sail/Early steam naval warfare.


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