I picked up In Her Name (Omnibus edition, comprising Empire, Confederation, and Final Battle) to read on vacation not knowing what to expect. Once I started, I was sucked in and could not put it down. Michael R. Hicks has a way of leaving you wanting more at the end of every chapter. The characters are fully-realized and three-dimensional. The protagonists are sympathetic and relateable while the villains are despicable More than once I wanted to just fast forward to see the villains get theirs, so much did I hate them.
The alien race featured in this stories, the Kreelan, are a warrior culture who fights for honor and the love of personal combat. It would have been easy to make them Klingon-clones, but as Hicks develops the culture you learn about their tragic history and the Kreelan become more sympathetic than most of the human characters. I had a hard time sympathizing with the human desire for ultimate victory once I bought into the Kreelan Way. Though, I did get worried when I detected a bit of the Mighty Whitey trope in play. Fortunately Hicks handles this well with just enough of a twist to remind us that tropes are not necessarily bad.
When I detected the story was near its end, I started to get sad, because I didn’t see how a happy ending was going to be possible with the perceived amount of pages remaining, but I put the book down satisfied with the resolution and wanting to learn more about the cultures to which I’d been introduced.
In Her Name is good space opera with a healthy dose of fantasy (though, is it? Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear magical to outsiders, a point was very happy to see acknowledged by one of the characters.). It is by far, one of the best books (well, three books, actually) I’ve read on my Kindle thus far, and one of the most entertaining sci-fi series I’ve read period since I first read Michael Stackpole’s X-Wing novels.