Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Ambition

By Yoshiki Tanaka. Released in Japan as “Ginga Eiyū Densetsu” by Tokuma Shoten. Released in North America by Haikasoru. Translated by Daniel Huddleston.

In the first volume, we saw the Galactic Empire and the Free republic spend most of the book at war with each other. This time around, they spend most of the book at war with themselves. Reinhard is not the best at making friends and influencing people, and so the aristocracy decide to take him out in a coup. Meanwhile, knowing that he needs the republic to be distracted while this is going on, Reinhard plants a traitor in order to start a coup on the republic side, which will keep Yang Wen-Li busy doing what he hates the most – fighting military battles. By the end of the book, both Yang and Reinhard have suffered grievous losses, though you could argue that Yang’s is merely sad, while Reinhard’s amounts to a grand tragedy of epic proportions.


This series has a huge cast, to be frank, bordering on the ridiculous. I will not blame the reader from getting completely lost among the Empire’s admirals, not knowing their Wittenfelds from their Mecklingers. That said, I never felt lost, mostly because, with the exceptions of the obvious main characters, the book is more about the plot than the characters. And it still has its obvious agenda – war is a tragic, horrible thing that devastates everyone. As with the first book, neither side comes off very well. The Empire is filled with arrogant scheming aristocrats who regard ‘the people’ as their toys, and indeed most of the latter half of the book hinges on such a jaw-droppingly heinous incident that I am reluctant to spoil further. As for the Republic, we see the dangers of the military assuming that they know what’s best for the people – sure, there’s martial law and no freedom of speech now, but freedom will return. really. Any day now.

If LOGH has a huge cast, it also has a reputation for killing that cast off. The aforementioned heinous incident leads directly to the most astonishing one, but (again trying not to spoil) its main purpose is also to show us that Reinhard is still stunningly immature at times, and can react just the way the aristocrats that he’s trying to put down do. I think the nest volume will be very important in seeing whether he manages to mature as a leader, or if he’s going to be the villain of the series. (The author is being very even-handed about both sides being tremendously flawed, though I suspect most Western readers will automatically side with Yang Wen-Li.) Speaking of Yang, he’s forced to admit at the end of the book that the republic’s own leader is a dangerous tyrant – and Yang feels a great desire to do something about it, something that goes against his very nature.

Having introduced most of the backstory in book 1, the second book does not feel quite as much like a history lesson. The translation can still get pompous and didactic, but again, I’m fairly sure the original was exactly like that as well. And the space battles are described well enough that even those uninterested in such things will be drawn in. I suspect the third volume will be a giant signpost as to where the rest of the series is heading – I highly look forward to it.

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  1. “If LOGH has a huge cast, it also has a reputation for killing that cast off.”
    And that is why we fans of the anime will recommend it to Game of Thrones fans, lol! I do think GoT probably goes more overboard on killing major named characters though, it’s like George RR Martin physically cannot help himself.

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