Feb 3, 2015

[Books] Battletech: The Price of Glory

Battletech: The Price of Glory is the third novel in the Saga of the Gray Death Legion series of books, because book trilogies will always be a thing. This whole story arc nicely follows the development of how the many books would treat mercenary companies and all that good stuff.

In the past two books we saw how our hero formed his own mercenary company, the Gray Death Legion, and the second book had them struggling to make a name for themselves. This third book already has the Legion being a bit more established with some regular contracts until things shift around. And you know how it is - things can't always go well.

I really enjoyed this first arc and I walked away with a better understanding of the Keith's particular slice of the Battletech universe and the Gray Death Legion itself. When I first started reading the Battletech novels, I picked up a few Gray Death books which were already pretty good on their own, but I had no real context for the mercenary company. And they certainly have quite the colorful history indeed.

Synopsis: Battletech: The Price of Glory is the third novel in William H. Keith, Jr.'s Saga of the Gray Death Legion series of Battletech books. It's set in early 3028 where the Legion is under the employ of House Marik of the Free Worlds League.

The Gray Death Legion has been executing a contract for House Marik, which includes numerous campaigns against House Liao of the Capellan Confederation. As their current assignment acting as the garrison for Sirius V comes to an end, the Legion is surprised to find that Lord Garth, Duke of Irian arrives to relieve the Legion with his personal unit, the Irian Guard. Their original orders were to wait for the 15th Marik Militia, but of course Carlyle is wary of this last minute change in their orders. His instincts turn out to be right as forces disguised as the Legion lay waste to the planet's domed cities after they leave.

When they finally return to Helm, the planet that has been granted to the Legion as a home for the mercenaries, they are surprised to find the planet in chaos and their new headquarters has already been assaulted by Marik forces. Given they had no information from Sirius V after their last mission, they know nothing about the horrors committed in their name and thus do not know why their personnel and families were attacked in such a savage manner. Thus we have the Legion back on the defensive as they try to figure out what had happened while finding a way to stay alive with limited resources.

A lot of the mercenary-centric stories tend to enjoy focusing on the group being betrayed or being caught in-between political machinations of larger entities including the the Great Houses themselves. And this is a classic presentation of this scenario as is repeated across many Battletech novels later on. And it certainly has a good number of plot twists to keep you wondering who is actually supporting what and why.

And while you have a good idea that Lord Garth is up to no good and has it in for the Legion from the very beginning, it's not immediately clear why. And I enjoyed how the book tries to keep this plot point more towards the rear of things since Carlyle has to focus on survival  before anything else. The final reveal isn't too surprising for anyone who has read Battletech novels but it still pays off well. But at the same time I kind of wish that Carlyle's reactions were a bit more mature somehow despite his relative age.

There's a lot of great combat here, even if it's mostly guerrilla combat. Let's face it, a lot of Battletech stories tend to fall into this pattern of behavior, which more or less matches the sort of stories were Battletech really shines. Those machines need a lot of ammo and take on a lot of damage time and time again and it's inevitable for a story to capitalize on this fact. The very limitations of BattleMechs determine what kinds of stories can be written.

Keith's writing is clever but not always sophisticate and there are some dialog sequences or plot decisions that make you scratch your head a bit at times. You can sort of excuse this since Carlyle is a young mercenary leader after all, but it's not quite a reason for everything that happens. And the core plot here is a little confusing, but then this book is from the early days of the novels, so we can forgive it a bit for now.

Battletech: The Price of Glory is a nice third act of sorts for the Gray Death Legion given Keith's enjoyment for putting Carlyle in tight situations. But to be fair, he does come out on top pretty well, which makes for good storytelling. Thus the book gets a good 4 surprises BattleMech maneuvers out of a possible 5.

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