Monday, March 11, 2019

Honor Bound

Star Trek: I.K.S. Gorkon
Book Two
Honor Bound by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Published December 2003
Read November 20th 2018

Previous book (I.K.S. Gorkon): A Good Day to Die

Next book (I.K.S. Gorkon): Enemy Territory

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Spoilers ahead for Honor Bound

From the back cover:
The Order of the Bat'leth: founded after Kahless' ascension to Sto-vo-kor, the Order was tasked with rooting out dishonorable behavior and spreading the word of Kahless to the Klingon people. In the subsequent millennium, the Order has become more ceremonial, but now Chancellor Martok has called the Order back to its original function – to preserve the cause of honor. 
Captain Klag of the I.K.S. Gorkon – the newest inductee into the Order – has given his word to the Children of San-Tarah that the Klingon Empire will leave them in peace. But Klag's old rival General Talak has ordered him to go back on his word and aid Talak in conquering the San-Tarah's world. Now Klag must stand against his fellow Klingons – but will even his fellow members of the Order of the Bat'leth, not to mention his own crew, follow him into disobedience? Or will they betray him to Talak? 
The crew of the Gorkon faces its greatest trial in a glorious adventure that will be remembered in song and story throughout the Empire!

My thoughts:

Honor Bound, which is the second book in the I.K.S. Gorkon series, is the culmination of the story began in the previous novel, A Good Day to Die. The Children of San-Tarah have emerged victorious over the crew of the Gorkon and won their freedom. Under the terms they negotiated with Klag, the Klingon Empire will allow the San-Tarah to remain separate from the Empire.

However, Klag's superior does not agree.

General Talak, who is leading the expedition into this new area of space, has ordered Klag to go back on his word and conquer the San-Tarah for the Empire. Klag, being the honorable Klingon he is, refuses, instead taking up arms against his fellow Klingons in defense of the San-Tarah, and calling in the cavalry: the Order of the Bat'leth, which recently accepted Klag as a member. The Order, while largely ceremonial these days, was founded as a group that would bring the word of Kahless to the rest of the galaxy and uphold his vision of honor. Martok, during the induction ceremony, reminded the assembled Klingons of the original aim of the Order, which Klag takes to heart.

What results is a large, bloody confrontation between Klag's and Talak's forces, both in space above San-Tarah and on the surface of the primitive world. On Talak's side is Klag's brother, Dorrek, who believes that Klag has behaved dishonorably and opposes him at every turn. There is a lot of family history at play here, and in the end Dorrek is expelled from their house by Klag. Suffice to say we are not done with Dorrek, and he remains a force to be reckoned with in future novels.

The Gorkon series shows Klingon warriors in action as the main drivers of the plot; protagonists rather than antagonists, and thus shows us the Star Trek universe from a perspective different from the one we are used to.

While there is certainly a lot of action and bloodshed in this novel (What do you expect? They're Klingons!), there are many terrific character moments that serve to make me love the crew that KRAD has assembled for this series. Wol, leader of the 15th squad of troops on the Gorkon, has consistently been one of my favorite characters in all of the novels featuring this crew. In this novel, she comes face to face with her past when she realizes that the Klingon warrior she just slew in battle is her long-lost son, a young man who has grown up never knowing who his mother is. This realization is heartbreaking for the reader, and it really gives you a sense of what Wol lost when she assumed this new life.

Kurak, the Gorkon's engineer, is also featured. As the chief engineer, she has been under-performing for the simple reason that she does not want to be there. A renowned ship-designer, she has been forced to serve the Klingon Defense Forces because there must always be a member of her house in the military by family tradition. The chief of security of the Gorkon, who also has ties to Imperial Intelligence, has basically blackmailed her into performing her duties by threatening the life of the only male heir of her house and holding the prospect of her having to remain in the Defense Force over her head.

Klag, of course, has a lot to do in the novel as he must face his brother and General Talak, all while still getting used to his new arm, surgically replaced by Dr. Boraq. While most Klingons don't embrace what the Federation would call "modern medicine," Klag has allowed his doctor to attach his deceased father's arm as a replacement for the limb he lost during the Dominion War. Many Klingons see this as an abomination, and Klag must overcome both the forces that oppose him and his own over-confidence.

Klag confronts dishonor both in the Klingon Empire at large and in his own family.

In the end, Klag and his crew emerge victorious after Klag defeats General Talak in single combat to settle the matter once and for all. Thanks to the Order of the Bat'leth, honor is satisfied and Chancellor Martok's approval for Klag's actions is given. The ultimate ending, however, was completely unexpected, at least by me: The Children of San-Tarah, having realized the benefits that joining a larger community would bring, decide to cede their world to the Klingon Empire after all. Seeing marvels such as the Klingon's advanced weapons as well as their medical technology convinces the leader of the San-Tarah that they cannot afford to remain isolated and "primitive." This ending turned the typical Star Trek situation on its head, and served almost as a bit of a jab at the Federation's "prime directive."

Final thoughts:

The I.K.S. Gorkon series continues to surprise and delight in book 2. As I have said in other reviews, I was initially skeptical about a series that focused mainly on Klingons and not on the Federation, but I am very glad to have been proven wrong. This series is a heck of a lot of fun to read, and gives readers the chance to see the Star Trek universe from a different perspective. The crew of the Gorkon is every bit as diverse and interesting as a Starfleet crew would be, and anyone who enjoys good Star Trek stories that are told very well would be well-served to pick up this series.

More about Honor Bound:

Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

My next read:

My next review is for Star Trek #49: The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes.

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