Oct 16, 2018

[Books] Battletech: Grave Covenant (Twilight of the Clans - Book 2) Review

The "Twilight of the Clans" story arc begun in Exodus Road continues in Grave Covenant and the action can only get...more political? But hey, the Battletech universe has always been part big robot-on-robot action, but also medieval-style political intrigue and maneuvering. And you know that when Michael A. Stackpole writes a book for the Battletech franchise, he tends to get a lot of the big political events to cover as part of his scope.

Grave Covenant shifts the action back to the Inner Sphere and the discussions that lead up to the point when former Smoke Jaguar warrior Trent finally defects with information of the Exodus Road. And apparently a lot of what happened...was talking. But what else can you expect from a mainly political conference, right?

Other stuff happen of course and we do get some action in the latter half of the book, but it takes a while to get there. So I have to warn you - the first half is a bit of a trudge to get through. So be patient with the material.

Synopsis: Battletech: Grave Covenant is a science fiction novel written by Michael A. Stackpole. As mentioned previously, it represents the second book in the "Twilight of the Clans" series and is set between 3058 and 3059.

The first half of the book focuses on what came to be known as the Whitting Conference - a gathering of the heads of various political factions in the Inner Sphere to discuss the Clan threat and a realistic plan for the future. And the end result became the decision to re-form the Star League as a way to show a united front and the steal the mandate of the Clan Invasion from them as they too hoped to re-establish the Star League. In addition, the conference was also where they mapped out the next part of their larger plan to stop the Clans - and this was the grim decision to take out one the Clans almost entirely in order to show the others that they now had the Star League mandate and possessed the necessary strength to stand up to the Invasion.

The final plan that they did come up with was a two-fold approach - one that involved striking Smoke Jaguar worlds within their part of the occupation zone that cut into the Draconis Combine. And the other half would involve a long-range strike on the Smoke Jaguar homeworld of Huntress given the defection of Trent. This book then touches on the beginning of the campaign within the Inner Sphere to attack the Smoke Jaguar worlds with a mixed force representing the new Star League.

What I Liked: Clearly, this book had major implications for the Battletech universe as a whole. The dream of the Star League is precisely what had led to generations of conflict in the Succession Wars as the various factions battled one another to possibly determine who would possibly become the next First Lord of the Star League. And deciding to come together even if primarily from a symbolic standpoint was still a breakthrough moment in their history. Sure, as a reader you can already tell where things could possibly go wrong in the future but let's savor the modest victory of this book.

And then you have the assault on Clan Smoke Jaguar and the daring moves to retake Combine worlds that had been under Clan control for years at this point in Battletech history. The surprise role of Clan Nova Cat in all this was a curious turn of events but on the whole there was some great moves that were really discussed from a more strategic viewpoint instead of embellishing the mech-on-mech combat from the perspective of the various mechwarriors.

What Could Have Been Better: The first half of the book covering the Whitting Conference and related events is crazy long and not all that fun. We can only read about Katrina Steiner being shady so much before it just gets overly tiring. The bits with Sun Tzu and Iris kind of got interesting later on but on the whole it feels like this part of the book lasted way longer than it should have.

Then when you get to the combat side of things, I was rather confused by the minimal moments of jumping to the Clan perspective primarily from the point of view of Vlad of the Wolves. As it's not like he got a heck of a lot of time and those bits he did get felt flimsy, on the whole it didn't feel particularly important to do so. But hey, we have to hit particular plot points with these books I suppose as needed by later books.

TL;DR: Battletech: Grave Covenant is more important for what it means for the Battletech universe as a whole more than based on the merits of the book on its own, I'll admit. I still enjoyed it and was intrigued by all that happened but really things could have been a little tighter. Thus the book still gets a good 4 arguments for who should become the First Lord of the revived Star League out of a possible 5.

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