The Heart of Valor
by Tanya Huff
Cover Artist: Paul Youll
Review by Barry Newton
DAW Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756404352
Date: 05 June 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
It's been five years since the last Valor book brought us news of Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr. That story, The Better Part of Valor, was also reviewed in SFRevu. While Heart of Valor stands alone reasonably well, the reader will benefit from the additional context of the earlier books. There have been two. Folks who know Tanya Huff from her fantasy and vampire tales may be gobsmacked to learn that she also writes rip-roaring military SF.
The Valor books feature a dedicated Gunnery Sergeant in the Confederate Marine Corps, which is populated by several alien species in addition to humans. Huff can't quite keep her humor under control when she writes about the de'Taykan, a species required to suppress their raging pheromones so that people around them can accomplish anything besides orgiastic frenzy. The Confederation is engaged in warfare against the Others, with three noncombatant elder races being defended by Earth and other, younger spacefarers. The motivations of the elders are far from clear, and will hopefully be brought out in later volumes.
In this story, Kerr is assigned as one of a team of drill instructors shepherding a platoon of trainees through their final combat training on a planet set with a number of scenarios and booby traps. The instructors know all of the courses and nasty surprises, and are able to control them at will—until that control is wrested from them. The tests become lethal, and the platoon takes casualties as the combat turns real. Kerr must keep her charges alive while her best hacking talent attempts to regain control of the planet, and determine who is behind the disaster.
While Torrin is embattled on the Crucible training grounds, her lover, Craig Ryder, is elsewhere attempting to find out why nearly everyone involved in his last salvage operation has no memory of it. (This is where having the previous stories for background is really helpful). He has to try and convince the single other person besides Kerr who was there and can remember what happened, to help him investigate. The fact that she's a news correspondent desperate a major scoop is both help and hindrance.
This is Torrin Kerr's greatest test to date, and it takes a true heart of valor to get her through her trial.