Banner of the Stars: Thunder of the Empire

By Hiroyuki Morioka and Toshihiro Ono. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Giuseppe di Martino.

And so we finally catch up with Banner of the Stars, a series whose last three volumes have come out over the course of the last twenty years, so I’m not sure when the next one in the series will be. This book takes place ten years after the last one, though honestly it took the author telling me that to actually make me understand it. The Abh are long-lived and don’t really age, so there’s a certain stasis to their lives, and it makes it hard to get a real sense of time. As for this book in particular, it’s very good news for those who love long, detailed descriptions of space battles, though as always these are somewhat remote, vaguely realistic space battles taken on by dry, sarcastic space elves, so don’t expect dramatic pew pew laser fights and heroes screaming out as they are killed. What we get instead is the Abh slowly trying to take back what they lost, and to regain contact with the other half of their split Empire, which is also trying its best.

Unlike the last book, Lafier gets quite a bit to do, as she’s promoted from training the new troops (which she’s been doing since the end of the previous book) to having a fleet of her own, whose job it is to retake the capital!… wait, no, that’s not its job, much to Lafier’s irritation. Instead they’re going after a different strategic site, trying to gauge the strength of the enemy, take out the enemy, force the enemy’s leaders to surrender, and seize the day. This is not quite as easy as it sounds… but it mostly is, with the Abh winning fairly one-sidedly. The drama comes from, as I said, Lafier not being a very happy camper. She’s still inexperienced for an Abh, and knows she would not have her own fleet if she weren’t Crown Princess. She has a minder on board, with orders to relieve her of duty if she screws up. And Jint, who is still by her side, is, well, starting to look older than her.

While talking about this book on Twitter, I noted that folks who started the series reading about the adventures of Jint and Lafier, who were hoping for more scenes of them together like we saw in Crest, are probably very disappointed by now, as it’s clear that’s not remotely what the author wants to write about at the moment. It was also pointed out to me that I don’t think like an Abh, and by their standards Jint and Lafier are sickening sweethearts, which is also true, I suppose. (We do see some good shots of Sporr and Cfadiss, which is the only other relationship we see in this series anything like the one Jint and Lafier have, and I appreciated it.) That said, Lafier does think about the fact that, as the years go on, Jint is going to look older and older and she isn’t. I’m not sure that makes her happy, but not much she can do about it. Still, any furthering of the romance will likely have to wait for the end of the war.

When will that end? Well, we’re not sure, as the next book isn’t out in Japan yet. This came out in 2018. I am hoping the gap between books will be more like the 5 year gap between 5 and 6, rather than the 9-year-gap between 4 and 5. till then, this is recommended for science fiction readers who like reading about military tactics.

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