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Safehold #4

A Mighty Fortress

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Young Cayleb Ahrmahk has accomplished things few people could even dream of. Not yet even thirty years old, he’s won the most crushing naval victories in human history. He’s smashed a hostile alliance of no less than five princedoms and won the hand of the beautiful young Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm. Cayleb and Sharleyan have created the Charisian Empire, the greatest naval power in the history of Safehold, and they’ve turned Charis into a place of refuge for all who treasure freedom.

Their success may prove short-lived. The Church of God Awaiting, which controls most of Safehold, has decreed their destruction. Mother Church’s entire purpose is to prevent the very things to which Charis is committed. Since the first attempt to crush the heretics failed, the Church has no choice but to adopt some of the hated Charisian innovations for themselves. Soon a mighty fleet will sail against Cayleb, destroying everything in its path.

But there are still matters about which the Church knows nothing, including Cayleb and Sharleyan’s adviser, friend, and guardian— the mystic warrior-monk named Merlin Athrawes. Merlin knows all about battles against impossible odds, because he is in fact the cybernetic avatar of a young woman named Nimue Alban, who died a thousand years before. As Nimue, Merlin saw the entire Terran Federation go down in fire and slaughter at the hands of a foe it could not defeat. He knows that Safehold is the last human planet in existence, and that the stasis the Church was created to enforce will be the human race’s death sentence if it is allowed to stand.

The juggernaut is rumbling down on Charis, but Merlin Athrawes and a handful of extraordinary human beings stand in its path. The Church is about to discover just how potent the power of human freedom truly is.

718 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

David Weber

269 books4,190 followers
David Mark Weber is an American science fiction and fantasy author. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1952.

Many of his stories have military, particularly naval, themes, and fit into the military science fiction genre. He frequently places female leading characters in what have been traditionally male roles.

One of his most popular and enduring characters is Honor Harrington whose alliterated name is an homage to C.S. Forester's character Horatio Hornblower and her last name from a fleet doctor in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander . Her story, together with the "Honorverse" she inhabits, has been developed through 16 novels and six shared-universe anthologies, as of spring 2013 (other works are in production). In 2008, he donated his archive to the department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University.

Many of his books are available online, either in their entirety as part of the Baen Free Library or, in the case of more recent books, in the form of sample chapters (typically the first 25-33% of the work).


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 216 reviews
44 reviews2 followers
May 30, 2010
A lot of talky-talk, very little plot. Talk about sound and fury signifying nothing! Geez, Weber get on with the story, already. Too many characters. How come every other word is spelled properly EXCEPT for characters names? Would it have been asking too much for Zhamsyn Clyntahn to be Jamison Clinton or Hauwered Wylsyn to be Howard Wilson? For Pete's sake it is hard enough to break through 800 some odd pages of this book to get to the other side, and to have to pay a bunch of money for it, but then to endure a constant string of new characters whose names are spelled in such a way that it appears the author was dropped on his head. I hope that in the next installment the plot moves along, because otherwise you can stick a fork in me, because I am done.
31 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2011
I am of two minds on this book. Let's start with the good.

Let me say with no hesitation that had I never read any Honor Harrington books, I would be the Safehold series' biggest fan. It has action, politics, characters to cheer for, villians who are villians not because they are eeeevil, but because they have a different (though understandable) viewpoint.

So, if you haven't read Honor Harrington, stop readig this review right now and go buy the entire Safehold series.

Sadly, I have read pretty much every Honor Harrington novel, including several of the Worlds of Honor books, the Shadown of Saganami, etc. Sadly, this has left me feeling cheated by the entire Safehold series. These books read exactly like an Age of Sail version of Honor Harrington. The similarities are striking:

Nimue Alban- brunette, contralto voice, former naval commander, has relationship issues, lives in a world where everyone drinks hot chocolate, excellent with katana
Honor Harrington - brunette, contralto voice, current naval commander, has relationship issues, drinks hot chocolate, killed a guy in a sword duel

Plotline for every Safehold book: Sizeable forces, including the far off Church, mass again Charis. Charis wins handily in a blue water navy battle because of better technology. People on Safehold make references to baseball.

Plotline for every Honor Harrington book: Sizable forces, including the Terran Federation, mass againt the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Manticore wis handily in a space navy battle because of better technology. People on Grayson make references to baseball.

I am all for writers going with what they know, but the Safehold series could have really used some point of differntiation. The fact that Nimue Alban is a robot who changes her gender and the differences in technology aren't enogh to make this work feel like it stands on its own.

I am a bit disappointed in David Weber. Safehold should be wonderful, but I can't help feel like I've already read these books.

Profile Image for Jeffrey.
888 reviews109 followers
April 28, 2010
Boring. Two little plot advancement, too little science, a lot of talking. Feels like the last few Weber books in the Honor Harrington series, and I do not mean that in a good way.

Weber devotes a lot of time to discussing the bad guys and their strategy. He also devotes a lot of time to the Prime Directive. In other words, how much do we tell the natives about the powerful Merlin in their midst. Lost in this 600 pages is the original story of how Merlin advances science.

Now the only seeming scientific advancements are in cannon shells.

And thats a shame because the first couple of books in this series were really good.

Also I get the sense that this could turn into a 10 book series.

Finally, can we ditch the chapter names -- which are just years in the calendar. How boring is that.

If it wasn't for the fact that my library did't buy it, I would not waste the money on a hardcover. You should not either.
Profile Image for Kathy Davie.
4,643 reviews699 followers
May 5, 2016
Fourth in the Safehold military science fiction series that blends high tech with early 19th century weapons. It's a war of David and Goliath proportions pitting the valiant Empire of Charis against the might and power of a corrupt Church.

My Take
It's all so reasonable with Green Valley thrilled to be blending his marines with the Chisholmian army — their soldiers have taken Green Valley's tactical ideas and absorbed and improved them. Cayleb is insisting that Chisholmians are treated exactly the same with the same rights and privileges as Charisians. Sharleyan has a slew of brilliant ideas for weapons and tactics.

I think Coris is playing with fire by not telling Irys who he really believes assassinated her father and brother. Merlin, at least, is a bit happier now that more people are able to communicate long-range. OWL is also starting to become more aware.

While I do enjoy Weber's poaching from a variety of cultures for the names and this series has a cast of thousands and with the odd spellings that Weber uses that it would be very easy to screw up names. But, I'd think that Weber would keep a document noting who was what and how their names were arranged or spelt.

Weber makes an interesting distinction between the original "archangels" who subverted the original mission plan for Safehold and twisted the Holy Writ to ensure their own views. It's useful that Nimue/Merlin knew the original Adorée Bédard and that the Bédarists of today are nothing like her, BUT they have taken her words and made them truly live by applying those words. The conversations between the two Wylsynns are truly heartwarming in their faith. Well, Samyl's peaceful acceptance is while Hauwerd's is more the argument I think most people (and priests) would have. Very inspiring.

I must say, Coris has a fascinating trip to Zion what with the sleighs pulled by lizards and the iceboat across the lake. A fascinating meeting between Mahklyn and Seamount discusses the minute details of what they've discovered so far about corning powder. I would never ha' thunk it.

I so badly want Merlin to make a number of video clips of what the SNARCs see and somehow project the clips so it seems like a vision and the people of Safehold believe it's a miracle…that, and I want that damn troopship!

YES! I tell ya, I think Weber dribbles out these little bits of karma just to drive ya nuts…! Oh, wow, Hauwerd Wylsynn's death is so…heroic, sad, and hopefully, not pointless with those bloody pointless tributes that Weber throws in…dammit. What?? Has Weber got stock in a Kleenex company??

The Story
While most of the populace of Corisande believe that Cayleb murdered the Hektors, there are extremely few people in power who don't believe that Clyntahn actually gave the orders for Prince Hektor and the crown prince's murders. Another tiny nail in the Group of Four's coffin. And Sharleyan is on her way home to Chisholm, if only to reassure her own people that she is safe with Archbishop Maikel soon to follow on his own tour of the empire. He has also decided to hand over Ahnzhelyk's "twenty years' worth of documents about the corruption within the vicarate and the Inquisition" to Wave Thunder.

The Imperial Charisian Navy (ICN) has been having it all her way for over three books. Unfortunately, someone has put the Earl of Thirsk back in the game, and the enemy shipyards are playing catch up with the newer innovations. That superiority is not going to last.

The Characters
An avatar, Merlin Athrawes, has all the knowledge of the now-vanished, highly technical Earth. The personality of Nimue Alban, a woman dead these past 900 years, has been downloaded into his circuits, and he is determined to return the original mission parameters to Safehold. He can also alter his physical appearance at will and creates a new avatar when he goes a'spying in Zion as Ahbraim Zhevons. Cayleb is the Emperor of the Star Empire of Charis with his beloved (and pregnant) Empress Sharleyan. Her personal armsman, Sergeant Edwyrd Seahamper, is the only survivor from the attack on her.

The Chisholmian side of the Empire has…
…Cherayth is its capital. Mahrak Sandyrs (Mark Sanders), Baron Green Mountain, is First Councillor in Chisholm and lover to the Queen Mother Alahnah Tayt (Alanna Tate). He's also the equivalent of a second father to Sharleyan. Both are extremely relieved that Sharleyan and Cayleb love each other. Pawal Braynair is now the Archbishop of Cherayth in the Church of Charis. Barkah Rahskail, the Earl of Swayle, is a Temple Loyalist on the Duke of Eastshare's staff.

General Sir Kynt Clareyk is now the Baron of Green Valley and working with Rushyl Thairis (Russel), the Duke of Eastshare, to integrate the Charisian Marines with the Chisholmian Army to create the Imperial Army. Sir Ahlber Zhustyn spies on other people while Hauwerstat Thompkyn, the Earl of White Crag, is the Lord Justice and keeps people from spying on Chisholm. Sir Lewk Cohlmyn (Luke Colman), the Earl of Sharpfield, is now the second-ranking officer in the ICN, and he's about to get an advisor — Gharth Rahlstahn (Garth Ralston), the Earl of Mahndyr, the former Emeraldian admiral.

The Charisian side of the Empire has…
…Tellesberg as its capital. Rayjhis Yowance (Regis), Earl of Gray Harbor, is first councillor of Charis. Bynzhamyn Raice (Benjamin Race), Baron Wave Thunder, is the spymaster for the Charisian side of the kingdom.

Archbishop Maikel Staynair (Michael) is a Charisian and leads the new Church of Charis. To know him, is to love him. Bishop Zherald Ahdymsyn (I'm guessing it's a French pronunciation or "Gerald" Adamson) was Dynnys' representative in Charis year-round; now he is Maikel's advance man for his tour. And he impresses Archbishop Klairmant of Corisande.

High Admiral Bryahn Lock Island (Brian), Earl of Lock Island, commands key fortifications at Tellesberg's harbor mouth in Charis, but is not yet accepted into the inner circle. Admiral Sir Domynyk Staynair, Baron Rock Point, has his battles to win.

Doctor Rahzhyr Mahklyn (Roger Maclin?), the Dean of the Royal College of Charis with full access to OWL, meets with Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk (Alfred Hendrick), Baron Seamount, is Safehold's gunnery expert. It's a catch-22 as to whether they'll let Hyndryk have access to OWL; he's reinventing scientific principles, and it could be distracting. Ehdwyrd Howsmyn (Edward Houseman) "owns two of the kingdom's three largest foundries and one of the largest shipyards and a small fleet of merchant ships. Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk (Alfred Hendrick), Baron Seamount, is a Navy captain and the gunnery expert of Safehold. Prince Nahrmahn Baytz (Norman Bates) of the now-province Emerald became the Imperial spymaster and his daughter is betrothed to Cayleb's younger brother. He and his much-loved wife Ohlyvya (Olivia) are brought into the inner circle.

Admiral Sir Domynyk Staynair, Baron Rock Point, destroys the port of Ferayd for two miles and then hangs the inquisitor priests responsible. Yay!! Sir Gwylym Manthyr is bound for Hardship Bay on Claw Island in the Harchong Sea with a mandate to slow and/or destroy the Dohlar Navy. Ensign Hektor Alply-Ahrmahk, the Duke of Darcos, has a small role to play under Sir Dunkyn Yairley's command. He's been helping Hektor learn the etiquette of his new station in life.

The Brethren of Saint Zherneau has guarded the journal of Saint Zherneau, a.k.a., Jeremiah Knowles, one of the original Adams and a secret adherent of Pei Shan-wei. Father Paityr Wylsynn, the Intendant in Charis, struggles as he awaits word of the fate of his family: his stepmother Lysbet, Zhanayt, Erais, Fraihman, and young Samyl Wylsynn.

The Exiles include…
Phylyp Ahzgood (Phillip Osgood), Earl of Coris, who was appointed regent to young Daivyn Daykyn, the new Prince of Corisande, albeit in exile at King Zhames' (James) court; he is also guardian to him and Iris, both Prince Hektor's children. All his skills as a spymaster will be required when the Group of Four commands him to travel to Zion in the middle of winter. He does manage to find a valet along the way, Rhobair Seablanket, a fellow Corisandian. And Church spy.

Corisande has…
…Manchyr as its capital. Viceroy General Hauwyl Chermyn (Howell Sherman) is less than happy with his promotion to Viceroy of Corisande.

Cayleb has set up a ruling Regency Council of Corisandians for this newly conquered land: Sir Rysel Gahrvai, the Earl of Anvil Rock, is one of two co-regents for Prince Daivyn; Admiral Taryl Lektor, the Earl of Tartarian; Sahlahmn Traigair (Solomon Traeger), the Earl of Storm Keep; Edwair Garthin, the Earl of North Coast; Sir Raimynd Lyndahr (Raymond Lindar) is the Keeper of the Purse; Trumyn Sowthmyn (Truman Southman), the Earl of Airyth; Sir Bairmon Chahlmair, the Duke of Margo; Wahlys Hillkeeper (Wallace), the Earl of Craggy Hill; and, the new Archbishop Klairmant Gairlyng; he has his particular doubts, although one-third of the bishops and priests have accepted the Church of Charis.

Including the beloved Father Tymahn Hahskans (Timon Hoskins). Cayleb, Merlin, and a huge proportion of the populace of Manchyr love Father Tymahn and his sermons. Unfortunately, Mother Church is less than enthused that the bridle is finally off his thoughts.

Sir Koryn Gahrvai is Anvil Rock's son and in charge of the city guard. Sir Alyk Ahrthyr (Alec Arthur) is the Earl of Windshare and renowned for both his horsemanship and intrepid bravery on the battlefield. As long as it's straightforward. He's also Sir Koryn's friend and is now putting together a troop of mounted constables to help keep the peace.

The Corisandian Conspirators include…
…Storm Keep; Craggy Hill; Rahzhyr Mairwyn (Roger), Baron Larchros; Bishop Amilain Gahrnaht and Father Airwain Yair; Bishop Mailvyn in Barcor; Bryahn Selky (Brian), the Earl of Deep Hollow; Sir Zher Sumyrs, the Baron of Barcor; and, Sir Adulfo Lynkyn (Lincoln), the Duke of Black Water.

Bishop Executor Thomys Shylair is on the run and hiding out in conspirators' homes while Intendant Aidryn Waimyn has his own plans to foment rebellion in Corisande. And if it takes torturing a priest…well, he obviously deserves it. I hope that Merlin finds Ahlbair Cahmmyng (a French "Albert" Cumming), the thug Waimyn hired to kill the Hektors!

The Enemies include…
King Rahnyld (Ronald) of Dohlar. Samyl Cahkrayn (Samuel Cochrane), Duke of Fern, is Rahnyld's chief councillor. Admiral Lywys Gardynyr (Lewis Gardener), Earl of Thirsk, has been recalled from his dishonor and placed in charge of building the new Dohlar Navy. Since politics are more important than ability, Thirsk is under attack by, Aibram Ziavyair (Abram Savior), Duke of Thorat, the brother of the so-very-incompetent Malikai. Thirsk finds unexpected allies in Bishop Staiphan (Stephen) and Admiral Hahlynd (Holland).

King Gorjah III of Tarot chose the wrong side when he ignored his treaty with Charis and now he's paying for it.

Cayleb and Sharleyan are just waiting for Tohmas Symmyns (Thomas Simmons), the Grand Duke Zebediah to screw up.

Daivyn Bairaht (Devon Barret), the Duke of Kholman and Emperor Mahrys IV's senior councilor for the Imperial Desnarian Navy conspires with Sir Urwyn Hahltar (Irwin Halter), Baron Jahras, to fulfill the Group of Four's demands while preserving lives.

The Group of Four are…
…four priests who form a Council of Vicars, the Church's rulers: Grand Inquisitor Zhaspyr Clyntahn (Jasper Clinton) is a gluttonous sociopath, and he is like a cat playing with a mouse, enjoying its terror. Archbishop Wyllym Rayno is the Adjutant of the Order of Schueler and Clyntahn's executive officer. Chancellor Zahmsyn Trynair (Jameson Trainer) has seen beyond the façade that Clyntahn presents…and he's terrified; Treasurer General Rhobair Duchairn (a French "Robert") recognizes the danger he is in and is conflicted between following his conscience and saving his family; and, Captain General Allayn Magwair (Allan) is quite aware of his own danger.

Members of the Circle are…
…priests who oppose the corruption of the Church and include Hauwerd Wylsynn and his brother Vicar Samyl. Their feud with Clyntahn is about to come to an end and not in a good way. With no way to know who the traitor is, they cannot warn anyone, but do their best to ensure as many of their brethren are out of Zion before winter shuts the city down. Another member is Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr (Jason Connor) of Glacierheart. Father Gharth Gorjah is his longtime personal secretary and Fraidmyn Tohmys his valet (Fredman?? Thomas)

Ahnzhelyk Phonda (Angelique Fonda) is a madam running a very elite brothel in Zion as well as a very secretive spy system collecting data on priests. Her contacts with the Church cause her to implement plans laid decades ago.

The Cover and Title
This cover is very similar to By Heresies Distressed in that it has a dark background providing great contrast for the author's name and title in silver foil. The center inset is of Merlin in his guise as Abraim in his recon skimmer as he watches a nighttime naval battle. No, this combination of events didn't happen in this story either.

The title, A Mighty Fortress is a reference to something King Haarahld said about "the fortress of Charis is the wooden walls of her fleet" but Merlin elaborated on it: "Duty. Responsibility. Love …is the real basis of your sense of duty. …[The people of Charis]…love their kingdom. They love their emperor and empress. They love their church and their God. They love freedom, and they love each other. …that…is the true fortress of Charis".
Profile Image for John.
35 reviews
September 18, 2010
I like a lot of what DW does, but the editing on this one is terrible. Corisande and Charis are not the same place, and there were several other places where names did not get cleaned up properly.

Also this series is getting bogged down in moving the fleets and the plot from place to place. The world would be just as enjoyable, or actually more enjoyable to read about if it were about half as large as it seems to be.

Some great ideas, but this story needs to speed up or end.
Profile Image for Louis.
83 reviews3 followers
December 5, 2010
In this book Weber continues the Safehold series where he is able to go back to the ship battles of old. The problem is that in this book he is dealing more with the description of the politics than in the action. Basically the balance is way off. Part of the problem is the increased number of people that are being tracked. In the past books in the series, he dealt with four of five players as they interacted with secondary ones (even if in some cases those secondaries were more important in the story).

Its also a bit too large. Of the 850 or so pages I suspect that it could have been trimmed by 200 pages and would have been a better book. I've liked Weber in the past but I feel this really didn't advance the story of the series in a good way. This has soured the series.

In some ways I had hoped that the matter with the church would have been resolved in this book, so that the next series would go to the next logical stage. They destroy the inward focused planetary battery and start arming for the aliens that killed Earth originally.
Profile Image for Lindsay Stares.
411 reviews30 followers
September 20, 2010
This series seriously needs a “Last Time, On Safehold...” prologue. I'm not going to re-read, or even re-skim, one or more additional 600-plus page doorstops to reorient myself in preparation for reading this one. This is part four, incidentally, of what seems to now be shaping up to be Arthurian motifs plus Protestant Reformation plus Industrial Revolution plus Interminable Boring Warfare, In Space.

After the action pace of By Heresies Distressed, A Mighty Fortress felt like filler. Not much happened, and when there was plot, it mostly happened to characters I didn't care about. It meanders endlessly, and I'm beginning to lose all hope that Weber doesn't plan to write a giant book about each year of a 30 year war. Almost everything that happened could have been summed up in an opening chapter to a book set a year or two later.

Read my full review at The Blue Fairy's Bookshelf.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Galewski.
Author 2 books3 followers
November 26, 2012
Why do I read these Safehold books?!?! Unlike the Honor Harrington series, in which Weber held me rapt with an increasingly complicated and humanized protagonist, these books feature a robot who doesn't evolve or grow. And I often get the sense that nothing much actually happens in a given volume of this series. Yet I still tend to queue the next one up when I'm done with the last. And at times, I even act as though I am addicted to them.

Perhaps I just like the violent battle scenes. These are usually set up with painstaking care over hundreds of pages. While there is little actual suspense about what is going to happen, it is indeed gratifying to watch the arrogant badie-badies get their due come-uppance in spades. Weber never flinches from delivering a good dose of schadenfreude.
Profile Image for Guy.
155 reviews63 followers
June 2, 2010
Overlong given the paucity of plot advancement and character development, frankly the book could have used a rigorous edit. By this time in the series we know most of the major characters and the issues they are wrestling with well enough so as not to need additional detailed exposés of what they think and why they do and don't do things and what the implications of minor events are. Weber would be well-advised to concentrate on advancing the plot while providing detailed exposition only of the occasional new characters and changes to existing characters... otherwise a fair number of his readers are going to lose interest and just read the Wikipedia summaries instead.

But I still love the way he writes....
Profile Image for Shannon.
69 reviews
September 29, 2012
This is the 4th book in the saga. So much to like about it, but some stuff that gets in the way of rapture. For an Honor Harrington fan, it does not disappoint. Whereas the Honorverse deals in political ideological themes attached to a kind of female Horatio Hornblower in space, the Safeholdian universe deals in another version of grand mariner saga, only this time, the ideological themes relate to the power of religion in a secular world of kings.

While it would be easy to say the religious theme is simply about abuse of power and corruption in the church, and one kingdom's battle against that abusive power, things are much more complicated than that, as the religion was created at a time when humanity was being obliterated by aliens who hunted H. sapiens down, using our own technology to track us. The purpose of the religion was to suppress technology in a small colony of 'survivors' and their descendants, until the time for resurgence was right. Fortunately for the reader, there were disagreements between the survivors who planned this, and while the the factions were blowing themselves up, one person's personality is recorded, to come back hundreds of years later to live in an avatar body and to attempt to assist humanity on the road 'back', only to run up against the religion put in place to limit the slaughtering-alien attracting technology. A twist on the religion versus science trope with many battles between sailing ships on the high seas.

What I appreciate in these books, is that, while some of the church hierarchy is evil, many are not, and the struggle which I find myself in in my own life is mirrored by many of the series' 'men of god', who involve us in the consideration of themes such as, "if the leaders of my church are doing things I think are wrong, are they truly wrong, or is 'the evil one' supporting my hubris to doubt the leadership"? When Peter said to Christ, 'Dude, you don't have to die!, Christ responded, "get thee behind me, Satan!"

While the good and bad guys are pretty much two dimensional (that can be okay because) it's the non-major characters who provide depth to the story. What are you when you agree to work in law enforcement of your country,for the king who just kicked your butt and took over your country, killing your rightful, but oppressive king in the process? Are you a good guy, or a traitor?

Sounds like 5 stars, right? What I find irritating are (1) the names are supposed to be English plus 300 years. They're just irritating. Just give me Jasper Clinton; don't make me try to figure out what Zhaspar clyntahn is. My spelling teacher persona goes f-ing nuts on just about every name, and it detracts from the damn good story, (2) likewise, the people's titles are too similar...baron wave-thunder, baron green-mountain, baron scraggly rock....puhleeze, especially when each of these folks has one of those damnable surnames also attached! There are just too many characters in this story to keep straight without the english/spelling struggle, and the fact that everyone has a name, followed by a title 'baron thunder-mountain-not-to-be-confused-with-baron-thunder-pants" (3) this series is so long because there is an overabundance of techno-babble. I don't know what the developmental history of bullets or rockets is, and I still don't after many pages of discussion of their development in the stories is, either. The long passages about the sailing ("pull up the main, mizzen, poop mast,yardarm, admiral!") are good enough! (4) the maps don't cover all of the places referred to in the story, so I can't 'see' where I am, sometimes (I think Silkiah is that blank space next to dehlfarak?)

I still really like this series because of its deep, struggle questions, its good guys versus bad guys, its complex secondary characters, its great battles, and its intriguing politics. As I have for Honor Harrington, I'm buyin' hardback and building more shelving for this series.
Profile Image for Johnny.
Author 10 books112 followers
January 19, 2016
Although the title of this fourth book in the fabulous Armageddon’s Reef series doesn’t mean exactly what Martin Luther meant when he penned that poem/hymn in our world, A Mighty Fortress is an appropriate title for a work that brilliantly weaves science-fiction concepts and background into a world where a parallel Reformation (and in this volume, Counter-Reformation) is occurring. I sometimes read fiction for pure escape value, but this series both deepens my real faith and helps me reflect on the human sacrifices (in addition to the divine sacrifice) that made my faith possible. You don’t need to be “Christian” to be fascinated by the technology tree in this series, the intricate conspiracies, the tragic deaths, and fascinating plot.

And, while the reader’s sympathy (or, at least, my sympathy certainly) is with the Empire of Charis (Greek for “grace”), there is an elephant outside the immediate plot (more appropriately a leviathan in outer space) that makes you wonder, on occasion, if perhaps the bad guys (the ecclesiastical reactionaries in this case) may have something of a point. Even though one hopes that Charis and its pro-technology, pro-freedom perspective will win, there is an overarching danger for which some of the founding fathers (dubbed “Archangels” in the book) had good intentions in instituting their archaic and repressive laws.

So, A Mighty Fortress deals with reform inside the original Holy Mother Church which, in this series so far, has been neither holy, nurturing, or following the mission of what a church should accomplish. Take all of the excesses which led to the Reformation in our world, triple the ingredients, vilify the antagonists to a Darth Vader level, and shake in a Martini mixer. the state of this colony, founded to protect humankind from an ultimate threat, but taking away what is authentically human with its rigid, legalistic structure. Fascinating!

But if the basis of this global war with limited (by proscription) technology isn’t fascinating to you, you will probably enjoy the strategic maneuvering and the way Weber deals with the problem of what happens after a disruptive technology has won decisive battles but the enemy starts to build up their version of that technology? How long does the advantage hold? And how does a smaller coalition of two kingdoms manage its larger conquests without completely digesting them or losing them with a costly rebellion? Does a self-proclaimed empire which conquered primarily as a buffer between themselves and a larger, wealthier coalition really want to hang onto its conquests? Can it afford to?

What would happen if that smaller empire was given a costly defeat, a costly Kadesh on the sea where both sides tried to “spin” the victory but the battle proved devastating to the ambitions of both sides? At what point does access to heretofore forbidden technology prove a liability and play into the hands of the nations which are loyal to the original church? Can an institution as corrupt as Weber portrays Holy Mother Church actually have a Counter-Reformation that can succeed? Only some of these questions are answered in A Mighty Fortress, but that just means there are wonderful and horrible events to occur in the future. I hope these events turn out beneficial to the people with whom I identify. Yet, like the infamous deaths of protagonists in The Game of Thrones series, there are no guarantees.

This series has become one of my absolute favorites.
Profile Image for Alistair.
100 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2011
This is the fourth book in what must turn out to be a never ending series of "Safehold" novels from Weber. The size and scope of the Safehold world and the increasing cast of charaters introduced by Weber, and the authors own sometimes cumbersome writing style (why use one word when you can use three) insurers that this book at over 700 pages does not move the overall plot along very much.

This is the problem, I am not sure at this point what the end game is in this series of books....is it the overthrow of the Church of God Awaiting? The eventual return of mankind to the stars and the defeat of the alien Gabba? If the former then ok we might be done in 3 maybe 4 four books at this rate, if the later, oh my, we could be looking at a life time of work ahead.

I would like to see the future novels streamlined, and be a bit more focused, one or two enemies at a time please to pick up the pace of the storyline. Also cut back on the overwrought emotional diaglogue between, Merlin, Caleb and Sharylane and for god sake dont ever again make me read there full names. Weber does not do this emotional stuff well.

Having said all of that, Weber does the naval battles well and I will be reading the next book and the one after that. Although I have described how I think these books could be better, I will keep reading them because they are still really great and I stay up late reading because you can't stop once you start!
Profile Image for Jeremy Dambrose.
48 reviews
August 18, 2017
Reading this book was like watching a TV series where all your favorite characters decided to drop the show. You barely get to see the main characters, and honestly, what I saw of Merlin (my favorite character) seemed infuriatingly uncharacteristic. The rest was barely more than political discussion from secondary characters. The series started so strong! The second and third books kept getting progressively political, but the characters held my attention. Without that, I have little desire to continue the series.
Profile Image for izawoodsman.
150 reviews2 followers
April 29, 2019
I am basically reading this because I want to know how the idea plays out. I have already decided this is one of those times where an author had a really good idea and then totally destroyed it with writing style. I might feel otherwise if I were an avid follower of galleon war tactics, but I do believe this is filed under science fiction.
Profile Image for Child960801.
2,097 reviews
January 21, 2023
The series continues. Things happen. There is a conversation in this book between two named female characters and it isn't about a man. There might even be two in this book.
Profile Image for Roger.
15 reviews
September 17, 2015
Should have been the kind of story I enjoy....but after way too many chapters, the character development left no characters one could care about at all.
Profile Image for Tim.
584 reviews27 followers
September 17, 2020
HEY! This is Book #4 in this series! As such it may contain some spoilers, so I’d recommend reading this series from thebeginning, starting with “Earth is Dead,” before reading this review. Just sayin’.
I was given this book by a fellow SFF fan. It’s part of a ten-volume (so far) set, “The Safehold Series,” of which “A Mighty Fortress” is #4. So, a little background (and gratitude to Wikipedia for summaries of the previous books). By the 31st Century, humans have developed space travel and have been forced to leave Earth because of imminent invasion by the “Gbaba,” who are looking to eliminate humanity and take and use up Earth’s resources. (sound like “Independence Day?”) The Gbaba are acutely aware of electronic and digital technology and would be able to find the escapees by following such technology, and have indeed done so for several colonized worlds. The remaining humans do escape, to Safehold, a planet similar to Earth in terms of compatibility with human life. The leader is Pei Shan-Wei. However, once there, the leaders of the expedition know it will be necessary to suppress technology in all its advanced forms to avoid detection by the Gbaba. The administrator, Eric Langhorne, leads the process of wiping out the memories of the colonists, planting instead the notion that they are all the first humans, with no knowledge of technology (termed the “Langhorne Lie”). He founds a religion, the Church of the Awaiting God, which reflects these values. Shan-Wei disagrees with this plan, and is executed, and in doing so she becomes a martyr to a revolutionary movement, which arose after a few centuries against the Church of the Awaiting God.
The revolutionary church is named the Church of Charis, after the island which is its seat. During the time of the revolution, some 900 years ago, a sentient android was made, a female named Nimue Allan. In the events of the current book, Nimue has an avatar, Merlin Athares, and yes, he’s a wizard with both magical and technological powers, designated male because in the male-dominated theocracy, women are not allowed to have influence. The current leaderof the Church of Charis, King Harrald, is assassinated, and his son, Cayleb, is now in open rebellion against the Church of the Awaiting God and its curia, the Group of Four, imbued with corruption and ruthless methods of getting what they want, sort of a version of the Spanish Inquisition (which NOBODY expects, but I digress…). These scenarios have, of course, set up both open battle between the churches and their followers, but also infighting within the sects, treachery, torture, massacres and other atrocities. Both sides have built fleets of wooden ships, essentially from Earth’s Age of Sail, with little or no technology. The proscriptions for ships allow for the use of “allowable technology” in the form of “wind, muscle and water.”
The events of “A Mighty Fortress” occur during the last part of the 9th Century after the landing on Safehold. After all this time, the leaders, especially of the Church of Charis navies, are concerned that their technology may be obsolete, and are working on techniques which will, for example, increase the efficiency of their cannons.
There are, of course, many more characters and relationships amongst them, as well as events, but this appears to be the basics. For me, most of this book is very “talky,” even amidst a lot of the power struggles. Indeed, all that talk goes on for what seems an interminable 200 pages (out of 1132) before the first naval battle, and then BAM! Fifty pages of suspenseful action, played out in short sections scattered among the ships in the opposing fleets. Mr. Weber certainly knows his naval terminology and communications, as well as the nature of ships and what even a random cannonball can do. The reader is exhausted by the end of it, I assure you. AND there’s another such battle close to the end of the book, just as exciting. You just gotta swim through innumerable pages of bureaucratic Jell-O to get there.
Which leads to another unanswered question: The Gbaba are not even mentioned in “A Mighty Fortress,” which indicates that there is no memory of them since Langhorne’s Lie. However, with some of the increased technology, especially in naval areas, I do wonder if the Gbaba might detect the spoor thereof and again become a threat.
Also, the maps (3) that are in the book were vague and at times confusing and certainly didn’t supplement and clarify the text, like I would suppose maps are supposed to do. The fellow who gave me this book also provided a larger, better map from the Internet, which helped. Nonetheless, I found myself going to Safehold Wiki numerous times for geographic details, which did help a lot. To be fair, I figure this might not have been such a problem had I started at the beginning.
So, four stars for “A Mighty Fortress.” I will likely return to this series, but will take my own advice and begin at the beginning. Indeed, the descriptions of the first two books appear to be closer to pure S-F than this one.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jon.
981 reviews12 followers
April 26, 2021
(heh, I just finished (April 2021) reading the 8th 700 page book in this series, and Weber isn't done yet)

This book is the fourth in the Safehold series by Weber, which begins with Off Armageddon Reef and continues withBy Heresies Distressed and By Schism Rent Asunder. The premise is that there are a group of colonists on a world far away from Earth who have been deliberately kept in a pre-technological state by the early leaders of that colony. The mechanism used was The Church of God Awaiting, and its proscriptions against new ways of doing things.
This colony may also be the last surviving pocket of humanity, since Earth was destroyed after they left by hostile and powerful aliens. The only "person" who knows this is a biological construct who has wakened from suspended animation after nine centuries, who calls himself Merlin. He has the advantage of being able to use very advanced technology that was hidden away with him as he slept, to help him get the citizens of this world into the technological age before the aliens find and destroy them, too.
The central authority Church, unfortunately, has become corrupt, its leaders jealous of their power and forgetful of their mission to love, guide, and educate their flocks. When the kingdom of Charis begins to flirt with the edges of the proscriptions on technology and develops a very strong navy, those leaders feel threatened and attempt to destroy them, declaring them heretics and traitors.
So, in the first few books, the war between the church and Charis has been building, and other nations have been taking sides. In A Mighty Fortress, a couple of crisis points are reached. First, the top leaders of the church, The Group of Four (any resemblence to the Gang of Four is purely coincidental, I'm sure) decide to crack down on the reformist movement within its own clergy. Its Inquisition has the power to arrest and interrogate and punish heretics, and their families. Much of the novel deals with the actions of folks attached to that movement getting ready for the coming purge and trying to get their families away from the grasp of the Inquisition before it comes.
Second, the church finally officially declares Holy War against Charis and its allies. The church and those kingdoms still loyal to it have been working hard to achieve naval superiority to the Charisian fleet, and we have a series of battles fought as those new capabilities are tested.
In the meantime, the Emperor and Emperess of the Charisian Empire, Caleb and Sharleyan, are expecting the arrival of their first child and heir to the throne, conspiracies are brewing in the conquered kingdoms, and new allies are being cautiously wooed.
This is a huge, complicated, book. It's nearly 700 pages long, jumps between multiple locations and points of view frequently to present simultaneous views of all its subplots, and requires a list of characters twenty-two pages long at the end of the book. At the same time, it manages to be suspenseful and exciting. A must-read for Weber fans who've been following this series.
Profile Image for Alex.
475 reviews9 followers
December 3, 2020
I loved this book.

I loved the first and second books of this series, as well, but I found myself growing weary of its world during the third installment. After several months away, I was ready to dive back in, and I'm glad I did.

This is the part of the review where I usually offer a brief description of a given book's story or subject, but I'll skip that here. Suffice it to say that this is the fourth volume in a ten-volume science fiction adventure. If I've piqued your interest with my enthusiasm, go back and read my review of Volume One, "Off Armageddon Reef." Rest assured that the following books are more of the same.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about this outing is that our heroes, after cutting through their opposition like so much tissue paper in the first three books, finally experience some setbacks. Their adversaries are waking up, getting smart, adapting. In other words, things are getting interesting and I don't know where they'll go from here. The main characters still haven't worn out their welcome, the world is still fresh, and I'm still engaged. Nevertheless, I'm going to wait a little while before diving into the next book in the series. These books are best, I think, when given a little room to breathe.

Recommended for: fans of science fiction, Hornblower or Aubrey novels, and Sharpe novels.
Profile Image for Scott Holstad.
Author 22 books58 followers
August 25, 2015
Oh.My.God. I can't believe I finally finished this near-1200 page monster of a book! It was brutal at times. I usually try to write complete or thorough reviews after reading a book, but I'm afraid I won't for this one. Just too damn long, too damn much. So, a short review for a long book.

This is the fourth book in Weber's Safehold series. It's not a standalone book. You need to start with the first one and read them in order to know what's going on and who's who. In this book, the Empire of Charis is still defending itself from the Church of God Awaiting, which intends to destroy Charis. Emperor Cayleb and Empress Sharleyan are splitting their time between Charis and Chisholm, although they spend most of this book in Chisholm. They also have their first child, a girl, so they have produced an heir to the throne.

The Church's Group of Four (vicars), led by Grand Inquisitor Clyntahn, who is a raging insane maniac, decides to build a navy to attack Charis, so they pay the various mainland kingdoms to start building ships and armaments, as well as training seamen, for the attack. When they do attack, they will vastly outnumber Charis's fleet and it could be brutal.

Speaking of the Charisian navy, it's always been the best in the world, but the Dohlarians now have a navy of their own and they go out looking for Charisian galleons. And they kick the Charisians' asses. Of course, it was a 38-4 ship advantage, so look at it however you want to, but it was the first time Charis has ever lost a naval battle and the mystique is tarnished.

Meanwhile, the conquered princedom of Corisonde is producing rebels. One rebel priest and his goons torture and murder a popular priest and Merlin, who we don't see much of in this book, gives the authorities his location so that they can arrest he and his cronies and execute them. Of course, this infuriates the Group of Four. Additionally, there's an uprising in the making in the northern section of the country, but it's put down too.

The book drags in many places. It has slow plotting. It plods. It gets boring at times, for instance, when Coris has to go to Zion in the winter. That section could have been pared down by about 20 pages at least. There's not much action. Until you get to the very end. The Church finally has its navy and is joined by Harchong's puny navy, sailing to meet the Dohlar navy. Of course, because of Merlin and his technology, the Charisians know about this and they send most of their fleet to guard Chisholm, which they think is the intended destination. They also worry about the navies joining, because when that happens, there will be over 300 ships against Charis's 97. Not good odds. High Admiral Bryahn Lock Island takes 25 Charisian galleons, some with new weapons, to attack the Church's navy. It will be 25 Charisian ships against 130 Church ships. Terrible odds. The only thing he thinks he can do is to attack at night in a storm with driving rain, when the Church won't be expecting an attack. And he does. And he obliterates the first 14 Church ships before sailing into the teeth of the Church navy, taking heavy fire and casualties. But he gets his ships in the midst of the Church's navy and the galleons with the new weapons fire and a Church ship literally explodes! Everything they hit is blown to hell. It's not much of a fight. Most Church ships surrender. Only nine get away. Ninety three are taken by Charis, which itself has only eight ships left. And they have 60,000 Church prisoners now. It's a huge Charisian victory. Again. And that's where the book ends. And I had to know what happened after that, so I immediately started reading the next one. Which is where I am now.

Still, problems exist with the book. The names are still freaking ridiculous! First, there are too many in this book to keep track of. There's an index of them in the back of the book and I think there are close to 500 characters named in this book. That's freaking cruel. There's no way we can keep track of them all. Also, they all have titles! They're Baron this, Earl that, Prince this, Vicar that, Duke this, Bishop that. It's too much. And to make matters even worse, Weber writes the names in old English spelled phonetically so that the names are virtually unpronounceable and appear to look stupid as hell and interrupt the flow of the sentence or paragraph since you have to stop and try to figure out who or what this person is. It's damned ridiculous! It's insulting. It's stupid. I'm used to it now, since I've read four of these, but I still hate it.

Additionally, Weber likes to use certain words and phrases over and over again, beating them into your head until you want to rip your eyes out. People are constantly "baring their teeth." As I wrote in my review for the last book, Weber -- no one bares their damn teeth, moron!!! Dogs bare their teeth. Wolves bare their teeth. People don't bare their teeth. And certainly not multiple people on the same damn page. It ticks me off. He also likes to write that people "snort." Constantly. It's cute the first three dozen times he writes it, but after seeing it 100 times, you want to kill any character who freaking snorts. What are they -- horses?

The book also moves at a glacial pace. I think it covers about 11 months, give or take. At this rate, publishing one book a year, maybe the series will be finished by the time I die??? It's driving me insane. As everyone says, he needs an editor. Maybe three. Cause apparently he has none. They need to speed him up and cut down on the word count.

Weber is a talented writer. I have to be honest though, these books drive me crazy. The whole time I read them, I ask myself why I'm putting myself through this torture. But like many others, I'm addicted. It's a good story and well told. Just slow as hell and from too many points of view. I want to know what happens next and what happens ultimately. I just don't want to have to read 25 1000 page books to do it. This is a five star book in terms of quality that deserves three stars because of all of its faults and problems, so I'm giving it four stars. Cautiously recommended for those reading the series.
522 reviews
May 16, 2019
These are my kind of book, tightly written, fast moving plots with frequent shifts in the action. They are also all around 285,000 words or around 700 to 800 pages! Weber's created world is interesting, and just like in his spectacularly engrossing Honorverse series, he makes the characters real to you. You begin to expect things or find things satisfying because of how they begin to become real people you'd want to know, or truly hate! There is FAR too much going on in each of these books for me to give any useful summary that didn't go on for pages so I'll just suggest you try the first one. Either you'll be hooked (as so many Weber fans are) or you should try some of his other excellent work!
45 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2020
Less is more!

Don't get me wrong, I love David Weber and would normally give him 5 on anything he writes, however....these books, while the storyline is amazing and holds your attention, the books are at least twice as long as they need to be. I find myself being bored by some of the tedious details he inserts in every sea battle, every explanation of a new/old invention etc. The books would be so much better with a faster pace and truth to tell, I would pay the same price for 1/2 the book if the storyline moved along more smoothly. David Weber I will still read you, but on your next installments/series, give a thought to your readers wishes.
Profile Image for James Edwards.
96 reviews29 followers
January 21, 2020
I never thought I’d finish this book. That I did is a testament to its ability to encourage me to keep turning page after page. It was a long journey, not always exciting, not always moving the plot, but it did consistently hold my interest. The details of the world created by Weber here are remarkable. They sometimes get in the way of the storyline & definitely slow the pace of where you’re going, but these details are like little pieces of candy you can’t stop eating. Weber does his job well, because even after all that, I still want to find out what happens next.
Profile Image for Brian.
341 reviews8 followers
March 5, 2020
The fourth in the Safehold series moves the action away from Emperor Cayleb and Empress Sharleyan and focuses more on the efforts of the rest of the Imperial Navy's campaign against the Group of Four and the Church of God Awaiting.

The Charisians suffer their most devastating losses and yet continue to take the fight to the Group of Four regardless. The tide swings back and forth as the superior numbers of the Church navy are more than balanced by the technological advancements of the Charisians.

A Great read
Profile Image for Timothy.
290 reviews
September 30, 2020
These books are well worth the work. If you like epic fantasy/science fiction doorstop novels that combine the best of both, look no further. Oh, did I mention the liberal dose of Patrick O'Brian thrown in? Massive sea battles with all the blood and violence those maritime wars were like is on full display.
One word of caution you have to start at book 1, Off Armageddon Reef, or you will be utterly lost. As I said, these books are work, but well worth it. I will add more to this review shortly.
Profile Image for Robert.
375 reviews8 followers
August 12, 2017
Good addition to series

This book was a monster in size, but I loved reading it. There is a lot of great things that take place--great as in for the story, because some of them are actually truly horrible.

I have really enjoyed reading this series. My biggest beef remains the names, and I sometimes get lost in who is who because of the strange twisting of the names, but I deal with it.
Profile Image for Lee Belbin.
992 reviews5 followers
August 8, 2018
Weber is a tad verbose for me, but many would say meticulous when it comes to character development and social interactions. There were a few places where I skipped the inevitables like what someone was wearing and tedious minor conversations that didn't relate to the main game. That said, it is a good read and buil obviously on the previous in the series. This one moved too slowly for me, but after a break, I'll continue on to see the inevitable win by the goodies.
Profile Image for Jules Bertaut.
386 reviews1 follower
July 31, 2019
This one had more fighting and less speeching than the last one in this series, which is good.

One thing I like about this series is the good guys have given up torture because it's Wrong. Some of the bad guys scorn them for that, because it makes them "weak" but those guys are also mostly kinda cartoonishly awful and this is just another way they're awful. I appreciate a strong anti-torture stance.
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