At The Sign Of Triumph (Safehold book 9) by David Weber (book review).

November 11, 2016 | By | Reply More

David Weber’s ‘Safehold’ series is now on its ninth book with ‘At The Sign Of Triumph’ and if he’s ensnarled those of you reading them, you do have to wonder when this war between the free world and the religious countries is going to come to an end with a hardly unsurprising victory so this is hardly spoiler. With a title like this, it won’t be much of a spoiler to say things are being rolled up as across the time period October 897-February 898 (not all months are covered). After all, with the cybernetic avatar Merlin Athrawes on the former side, slowly advancing their technology in preparation to turn these colonised humans back to the level that they can return to space. The Church also has access to some of the same technology, although little is seen and less afraid to use it but, even so, you would have thought he would have been moving faster to end things than have so many deaths. Giving that the Chisholmian side balloons for aerial surveillance and the Church has camouflaged ships hardly helps the latter against missile bombardment. Also, the Inquisition has been torturing spies and been ordered to turn on any of the religious members who want to go for a peace treaty by their leader, Zhaspahr Clyntahn, who is the ultimate religious zealot. Saying that, you really do have to ask how he stayed in power so long without a revolution, especially when you see the death figures.


Occasionally, Weber will make reference to terrestrial comparisons which when you consider that these colonists don’t even know about other planets, let alone Earth, does tend to break their knowledge pool. Likewise, you do end up playing games with the phonetic names of the various long list of characters and apart from the likes of Kynt Clareyk whose been in the books a long time, there is also a Kahrltyn Haigyl and Pait Stywyrt now as well.

This novel is also heavily dialogued which, despite its long length, does make a slightly shorter read despite its size. The problem is that with so many characters is that they have begun to talk in pretty much the same way and you have to check the title headings just as to which side you are reading about from time to time because you slowly get hypnotised into not really caring which is definitely not good for book series, more so as Merlin’s appearances are way down in this book. Crucially, again considering the technology Merlin has, you do have to ask why he didn’t move things forward as much as he should have without so many deaths. Even without the technology, some of the military strategy used at the end could also have been applied much earlier as well. Even his own side are appalled at the number of deaths. Although Weber occasionally goes up close to some being killed, the real problem comes from not really caring and so much cannonfodder.

The appendixes this time do not include those long lists of characters. In a writer’s note, Weber points out that he ran out of time to complete it but also appreciates that not all readers like it. Mind you, considering the number of characters killed off in this book, maybe there isn’t enough left to count anymore. These are only the significant names, it’s when you see multi-number figures killed at a time in the war, presumably as cannonfodder, does make you wonder why the Church, even in some of the distant parts, never sues for peace let alone offered an unconditional surrender. After all, messengers to and thro must take significant time and they don’t have Merlin’s means for instant transmissions. Instead, we have an appendix looking at the culture itself. Weber’s reveals of the Church military doesn’t give them the same zealot lust for religious victory as their leaders would surely have made this possible.

Oddly, despite my misgivings, it isn’t to the point that I didn’t want to read on, even if it was only to wait for Merlin’s appearances. With the Church-led countries defeated at long last, you do have to wonder what is going to happen next.

The glossary covers a lot of the fauna of Safehold and the native species are mostly six-limbed lizards and mammals and some extremely large marine life. As they have yet to really appear in this book series, maybe it’s a hint of things to come.

GF Willmetts

November 2016

(pub: TOR/Forge. 764 page hardback. Price: $27.99 (US), $38.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2558-7)

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Category: Books, Scifi

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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