Sunday, June 21, 2009

Audio Review - "The Heart of Valor" by Tanya Huff

The Heart of Valor (2007) by Tanya Huff is the third book in her science fiction Confederation series after Valor's Choice (2000) and The Better Part of Valor (2002). The Heart of Valor was only recently released as an audio book narrated by the incomparable Marguerite Gavin that also narrates the Hollows books by Kim Harrison. All of the books feature Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr whose purpose as Wikipedia neatly summarizes - is the "aim is to keep both her superiors and her company of space marines alive as they deal with lethal missions throughout the galaxy."
SYNOPSIS: Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr was a Confederation Marine's marine. She'd survived more deadly encounters---and kept more of her officers and enlistees alive---than anyone in the Corps, and she was determined to keep that record intact. But since her last mission, she'd been sidelined into endless briefings and debriefings with no end in sight.So, of course, she'd jumped at the chance to go to Crucible---the Marine Corps training planet---as a temporary aide to Major Svensson. The major had been reduced to little more than a brain and a spinal cord in his last combat, and he and his doctor were anxious to field-test his newly regrown body. It should have been an easy 20-day run. After all, Crucible was only set up to simulate battle situations so that recruits could be trained safely. But they were barely on-planet when someone started blasting the training scenarios to smithereens. Suddenly, Kerr found herself not only responsible for the major and his doctor but caught in a desperate fight to keep a platoon of Marine recruits alive until someone could discover what was happening on Crucible.
The story is exciting and fast-paced with plenty of SF military action, but the best reason to read (or listen) to the Confederation series and The Heart of Valor is for the main character Torin Kerr. She is an eminently capable marine sergeant, smart, experienced and a leader with a wry wit and laconic demeanor. She also has a romantic and vulnerable side when she is with her lover Craig Ryder. There is a real authenticity to Torin as she leads her platoons, saving lives, mentoring her recruits, supporting her commander and stick-handling the complex politics, mores and habits of several alien races. Tanya Huff comes from a military background and it is clearly reflected in the details and narrative.

As always, I enjoyed Marguerite Gavin's expressive voice and many characterizations. As I listened, it was easy to imagine Torin as a living, breathing person brought to life. You can hear an excerpt of the book here. Being a marine sergeant, Torin Kerr is a different kind of heroine from the urban fantasy "kick-ass" variety many readers are familiar with. I think readers of Anne Aguirre's Jax series will likely enjoy the Confederation series. Although there are some plot threads that carry forward from previous books, The Heart of Valor stands well on its own and would be an excellent entry point to the series for new readers.

A fourth book in the series Valor's Trial was released in hardcover in 2008 and recently in paperback which this weekend is on the Globe and Mail's Canadian Bestseller List. A great tribute to Tanya Huff from Canadian SF author Robert J. Sawyer can be found here.

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