Review: Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Endurance by Yoshiki Tanaka

Posted by DarkChaplain at 11/27/2016
In the thirty-sixth century, humanity has conquered the galaxy and colonized countless star systems. The Galactic Empire, modeled along Prussian lines, and the democratic Free Planets Alliance are at war, and the fate of every human being in the universe hangs in the balance.

A grand scheme for retaking Iserlohn is delivered to Reinhard, who with renewed determination seeks to become ruler of the galaxy, and fulfill the oath he made with a dear, departed friend. But what are the aims of Phezzan, the third force at work behind the scenes? Meanwhile, no sooner is Yang breathing a sigh of relief when Julian returns from his first combat mission than he is summoned to an inquest and departs for the capital of the Alliance. As if waiting for this opportunity to strike, however, the Imperial military's fortress appears right at the gates of Iserlohn. The battle between two gigantic fortresses begins!
You probably knew this review was coming. I preordered this book (and its predecessor) as far back as March, but since the paperback wouldn't reach me until sometime next week, two weeks after e- and audiobook releases, I went with the latter. Thankfully, Tim Gerard Reynolds is as delightful as always, so getting through this was easy. It helped that Tim's mix of levity and gravity perfectly suits the style of the series.

The Story:
"In the thirty-sixth century, humanity has conquered the galaxy and colonized countless star systems. The Galactic Empire, modeled along Prussian lines, and the democratic Free Planets Alliance are at war, and the fate of every human being in the universe hangs in the balance.

A grand scheme for retaking Iserlohn is delivered to Reinhard, who with renewed determination seeks to become ruler of the galaxy, and fulfill the oath he made with a dear, departed friend. But what are the aims of Phezzan, the third force at work behind the scenes? Meanwhile, no sooner is Yang breathing a sigh of relief when Julian returns from his first combat mission than he is summoned to an inquest and departs for the capital of the Alliance. As if waiting for this opportunity to strike, however, the Imperial military's fortress appears right at the gates of Iserlohn. The battle between two gigantic fortresses begins!"

The Review:
Endurance is the third part of Yoshiki Tanaka's Legend of the Galactic Heroes series. As such, please be aware that there'll be spoilers for the first two books here!

Compared to the first two books, I would argue that Endurance is the slowest. Both Dawn and Ambition had a good amount of action, big fleet movements and bloodshed. While this installment is hardly without those things, its biggest struggle takes place away from the battlefield surrounding Iserlohn Fortress. The fortress, as you might remember, protects the route between Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Aliiance, and is held by Admiral Yang Wen-li, who has taken it from the empire in a genius move. The empire, under Reinhard von Lohengramm's leadership, naturally wants it back, which is the main point of the book as far as empire and the fleet war are concerned.

Surprisingly, we see little of Reinhard in this book. With Siegfried Kircheis gone, the new de facto emperor is in a big slump. He mourns his friend, and struggles to surround himself with people he can trust unconditionally; nobody is able to understand his dream, his ambition, like Sieg did. It doesn't help that his sister, Annerose, has departed to live in solitude after news reached her. Reinhard is on his own, surrounded by selfish people and manipulators like Paul von Oberstein, who, in some ways, is responsible for Reinhard's loss. The only person who truly seems to care about the Golden Brat appears to be Hildegard von Mariendorf, who joined his side in the previous book.
Hilda's scenes here are relatively short, but set up a lot of things for future installments, and provide a possible love interest for Reinhard - something that he seems blind to. I enjoyed those scenes greatly, however, as they are well-executed and introduced some new warmth to a relatively cold state of affairs.

To stick with characters on the Galactic Empire's side, I was glad to see a few of them being developed further. The friendship between Mittermeier and Von Reuentahl, who by all rights should be bitter rivals, is palpable here, and Tanaka treats us to some genuine moments between them. We see glimpses of their upbringing, their personal lives and their own ambitions, making them far more than the genius admirals they have been presented as previously. Even Von Oberstein received a little bit of the same, giving him more depth. Generally, this reflects the entire book - character development stands front and center.

On the FPA's end, the novel makes it a point to get Julian, Yang's adopted war-orphan, into battle for the first time, piloting a Spartanian starfighter. Those scenes present a good part of the book's action, and show the nitty-gritty and misery of being a soldier below the command level. Of course, Julian is also a natural at it. Yang's discomfort and disapproval of his protégé's choice of career make for a nice bit of conflict here too, ending in a scene that is very comfortable and made me happy.

But eventually Yang gets recalled to the capital of Heinessen, to stand in front of a "court of inquiry" regarding his actions from the previous book. With no real legal authority behind them, this basically comes down to psycho-terror and a battle of wits, where Yang proves his defiance towards the FPA's government and the dangerous turns their "free democracy" has been taking lately. It is a heated part of the book that had me on edge, wondering when Yang would snap and burn all the bridges. If you haven't hated the FPA's government so far, now might be the chance to jump on the train!
Parallel to this ordeal, Yang's aide Frederica Greenhill proves herself worth her weight in gold. She's a delightful character full of strength and warmth, and I appreciate all her appearances so far. The baggage from the previous book sadly still looms its ugly head here, but just comes to show how strong Yang's aide is.

While this book is certainly slower and more reflective, giving the cast more chances to develop and grow, there of course is a big battle towards the end to look forward to. It is teased by the blurb already - the battle of two gigantic space fortresses! This part was damn exciting, especially with both Yang and Reinhard away from it, at least for the bulk of it. Yang's underlings have to step up their game and hold the fort, which also gives the recently defected Merkatz a chance to prove his mettle to his new comrades. Everyone, including Alex Caselnes, get to show off here for a change, and I loved that.

If anything, though, this book sets up a lot of opportunities for future disaster and glory. It has plenty of substance to entertain and make you think about the characters and events, but its full worth will become more obvious as the overarching plot progresses in the next few installments. Seeds are being sown, and everybody's endurance and resolve are tested greatly, and their directions might well change in the future.
Overall I believe this book is exactly what the series needed after the highly eventful first two installments. Time for the dust to settle while creating new openings to be explored.
While Endurance is relatively slow on action, it definitely had a big impact on how I view the series.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Vol.3: Endurance on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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