Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Desolation

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

Before we discuss the events of the second half of the book (which I will spoil out of necessity), let’s talk about the fairly normal first half. Reinhard is headed with his entire fleet towards Iserlohn, and Yang and company are doing their level best to try to at least slow them down. There are a few more times when we see Yang being the master tactician and manipulator that he is, and a lot of the Empire’s finest being hotheads when they shouldn’t be. The stage is set for Reinhard and Yang to negotiate terms. We even get one last debate, in Yang’s head, about the need for democracy vs. a dictatorship. Yang is well aware that Reinhard is a kinder, gentler dictator, and that forcing democracy is likely to make people far more unhappy than they would be under the Emperor’s hand. But it’s notable that the Empire only seems the better option because of these circumstances, and we’ve also seen Reinhard’s petulant side as well. Plus he’s STILL not married. What of the future?

But in amongst this, you’re getting the foreshadowing. LOGH is many things, but subtle it ain’t, so we get several scenes showing us the Church setting Yang up to be assassinated (using a character I had honestly forgotten about – this cast is too damn big) and setting the audience up to expect another near escape like Yang had a couple of books ago. But then we get things like “this was the last time the two would ever speak”, and you start to realize what’s going to happen. And then it does. Yang is killed on his way to the peace talks. Not even in a pitched gun battle or anything, but shot in the leg and slowly bleeding to death. Given that it’s a series about the horrors of war, among other things, it seems fitting, but everyone agrees this was not the way that Yang should have died (Frederica’s dream of the death of Yang as an 85-year-old grandfather is possibly the most heartbreaking thing in a heartbreaking book.)

As you can imagine, the rest of the book deals with the fallout from this. Iserlohn is devastated, of course, and many of their allies flee. The cause is kept alive, with Frederica on the political side and Julian on the military side, but both agree they’re only doing this because they know it’s what Yang would do; Frederica’s saying that she’d be happy to let democracy go hang if it meant getting her husband back is chilling. And the ominous foreshadowing is not done yet. Mittermeier and von Reuentahl also get a “they would never speak again” foreshadowing, and I suspect the latter is going to turn on Reinhard soon, or at least be made to seem like he is. And Reinhard spends much of the book in bed with a high fever… not the first time this has happened. He’s been ill QUITE a bit, which is another reason he’s being pressured to marry. With the Republic in tatters, is the Empire far behind?

There’s two more books in the main series, and lots more to resolve. It’s hard not to leave this book feeling depressed, though, and I will admit that most of the reason I read this was to read about Yang Wen-Li. Like his family and allies, I’ll continue to read the books, but also like them, I’m not looking forward to it nearly as much. A well-written equivalent of a drive-by gangland killing.

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