Ally

by Karen Traviss

Cover image

Series: Wess'Har #5
Publisher: Eos
Copyright: April 2007
ISBN: 0-06-088232-8
Format: Mass market
Pages: 388

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This is the fifth book of the Wess'Har series and, like the previous books, cannot be usefully read on its own. As with the previous books, almost anything concrete that I can say about the plot will spoil the previous books, so this review will be far more general than I would normally write.

The beginning of Ally was, unfortunately, rather like Matriarch: a lot of inaction, a lot of repetition of the same character traits and worries, and a lot of station-keeping by the characters. I was worried at the start that the series was going to stall. But thankfully, after rather more rehashing of the mindsets of the characters than I would have preferred, things finally start happening at a pace similar to the earlier books in the series.

The two most obnoxious characters in the book, while still around, are less prominent, and one of them even finally does something interesting (or, rather, follows through on the twist at the end of Matriarch). That substantially improved my enjoyment of the book. The closing twist of Matriarch turned out to be a far more interesting plot than I had expected and did a lot to redeem that sub-plot of the series.

The main plot also finally got some substantial advancement, including several new twists that raise the stakes for everyone involved. One right near the end of Ally I did not expect at all. Traviss hadn't surprised me as much in the last two books, so a return to the shockers of City of Pearl and Crossing the Line was nice to see. Ally still feels a bit too much like the middle book of a trilogy, but finally it has the payoff and setup that I would expect out of a strong middle book and sets up a lot of explosions for the next and final volume.

As always, ethical challenges, particularly around environmentalism, responsibility (shared and personal), competing calls of duty and family, and conflicts on approaches to intervention form the core of this story. Some of these arguments were getting a bit old in the last couple books, but new plot twists and new approaches revitalize the arguments considerably. Some of the characters who have been dithering for rather too long start taking firm stands and dealing with the consequences, which gives Ally more of a sense of forward movement and closure. Traviss is rebuilding momentum going into the final book in the series, for which I now have high hopes.

I can't speak much about characters due to spoilers even at mentioning names, but I can say that I have a new favorite character. Giyadas, a wess'har isanket (a young female), has been growing up through the course of the series and has turned into a fascinating character who tends to steal every scene she's in. One of the things Traviss is quite good at is strong supporting characters, particularly among the aliens. I'm hoping Giyadas gets lots of camera time in the final book, although there's enough else going on that I'm not sure how Traviss will fit it in.

This series should not be read out of order, so recommendations are a bit pointless for people who have not yet started this series. Readers of the series can be reassured, though, that the quality picks up here and the story regains some of the momentum that it was losing. It continues to be a series worth reading.

Followed by Judge.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2009-11-04

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21