I just finished listening to the audiobook of The Better Part of Valor by Tanya Huff. Book 2 in the Confederation series, it follows the format of a tough female Staff Sergeant on a mission that seems simple but turns deadly. The heroine must hold her own against officers of questionable judgment and skill as she directs a platoon of the toughest marines in space, while saving the civilians – and the day – against the both the unknown and the odds.
Staff Sergeant Tobin Kerr, or ‘Staff’ as she is known to her platoon, is the all-knowing leader of 12 marines that take on the toughest assignments. Truly, she is all-knowing. Probably has an extra pair of eyes in the back of her head. Besides, it is her job to know everything. She will tell you that in a very matter-of-fact manner.
It is also the Staff Sergeant’s job to obey orders. Even if she thinks those orders are idiotic and could get people killed. Occasionally, she is able use her supernatural ability to convince her superior officer that there might be an alternative course of action, but often, she just needs to use said ability to make sure people don’t die. No, this is not a paranormal story, but truly, Staff does occasionally seem to have superpowers.
The Staff Sergeant has many jobs. Throughout The Better Part of Valor, the reader gets to learn of the many challenging aspects of this heroine’s job. Sometimes the learning is introduced with humor, sometimes with sadness and sometimes with shock. Tobin Kerr is a character of intelligence, heart, strength and courage.
In The Better Part of Valor, Staff Sergeant Tobin Kerr and her platoon are assigned to protect a group of scientists and a salvage operator as they explore a giant derelict spaceship. The spaceship, unofficially dubbed ‘Big Yellow’, seems to generate more questions than it answers as the marines and explorers make their way through the ship.
Tobin Kerr is the only main character in the story. In fact, the point of view rarely centers on other characters, but does so when it is important to the story. There quite a few characters and each of them have an important place in the story. Kerr’s platoon includes 12 unique people from various species, each with their own quirks.
General Morris sent Kerr on the mission to Big Yellow. The General is more concerned that Captain Travik, the commanding officer he sent with her, comes back alive than with anything else. It is a political thing. And Kerr is politically correct because, well, it is her job.
Craig Ryder is the salvage operator who actually found Big Yellow. He is along on the mission to protect his salvage rights. He goes from annoying to funny to okay and back to annoying. And that can happen on just one page. I liked him. He constantly flirts with Kerr, which to her is annoying and funny and okay and back to annoying. So, a nice little relationship dynamic goes on between the two of them. While The Better Part of Valor is not a romance, there is just the slightest hint of something going on between Staff and the salvage operator.
The marines arrived at Big Yellow courtesy of the crew of the Briganatine. The ship’s Captain, a fighter pilot and gunner are all key secondary characters and despite their relatively small space on the page, they are well developed. Ms. Huff has a way of depicting a character using few words. But they are just the right words, making the reader connect with them almost immediately and for the duration of the story.
The Others are the enemy that humans and their allies fight. They were mentioned in book 1, Valor’s Choice, but in book 2, they are actually seen and faced. The ideology of the war with the Others is vague at this point, but it doesn’t have to be defined in order to have a battle.
The Better Part of Valor is pure Military Science Fiction. Space and spaceships. Fighter ships. Other worlds. Aliens on both sides of the war. Officers and enlisted soldiers. Action and adventure. Non-stop action and adventure.
The book followed pretty much the same format (see my first paragraph) as book 1 in this series. Sometime that dissuades me from continuing a series. But not in this case. I loved The Better Part of Valor. I’ll be going for book 3 in the future. And I will stick with audiobooks. Narrator Marguerite Gavin makes a great Staff Sergeant Kerr – and other characters as well.
Have you read this series? What did you think of it?
Confederation series on Amazon: