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The Heart of Valor: A Confederation Novel    by Tanya Huff order for
Heart of Valor
by Tanya Huff
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Heart of Valor, indomitable space marine Torin Kerr (now promoted from Staff Sergeant to Marine Gunnery Sergeant) continues her military forays in space that began in Valor's Choice and continued in The Better Part of Valor. In the former, Torin succeeded in persuading the very aggressive reptilian Silsviss to join the Confederation in its life and death struggle against the mysterious bug-like Others. In the second book, she investigated a gigantic derelict spaceship with Others also on board - and found that the ship itself was setting IQ tests for its boarders.

Now, Torin is back at Ventris Station for an interminable debriefing - she'd much rather be with her fellow Marines of Sh'Quo Company. Also on station is an officer she respects, Major Goran Svensson, recuperating after having 'been rebuilt almost from scratch'. And she encounters 'one of the main reasons Torin had become a career Marine' - Staff Sergeant di'Allak Beyhn, shepherding a bunch of recruits. Her hot romance with salvage operator Craig Ryder continues - whenever propinquity permits - and she still takes orders from 'her personal pain in the brass', General Morris.

The mystery that drives the story is prompted by a casual comment from Craig, who hopes to make a salvage claim: 'You ever hear what happened to the escape pod from Big Yellow.' It turns out that no-one - other than Torin, Craig and pesky furball reporter Presit a Tur durValintrisy - remembers that there ever was an escape pod. Torin wonders if the Elder Races have been practicing mind control, and if so, why? At the same time, Major Svensson offers Torin an opportunity for limited action and an escape from debriefings - his medic, Dr. Sloan, wants to field test his new parts on Crucible, a training planet set up to challenge recruits, and he needs a Marine babysitter. Torin jumps at the chance.

But on Crucible, what was supposed to be a no-risk training mission quickly turns into something else, as the scenario starts using live ammo, the Orbital Platform is blown up, and Marines die. Torin takes charge, under fragile Major Svensson's command. Complicating matters is the fact that Staff Sergeant Beyhn is in the midst of a medical crisis, a major transition that affects his fellow di'Taykans with a strong instinct to protect him. There also seems to be a mole in the group, helping the enemy, whoever that may be. Of course, Torin figures it all out before it's too late. Of course it's a huge surprise. And of course, there are more casualties.

Though I don't consider The Heart of Valor the best in the series, I still read it nonstop. I love Tanya Huff's work (both fantasy and SF) and will happily embark on any reading adventure she takes me on, especially one involving tough as nails Torin Kerr.

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