Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is the baddest of bad asses.  She strictly follows military protocol but can make a general feel like an idiot and a new second lieutenant toe her line while doing so.  She is competent and smart and snarky and fucking wonderful.  She’s got no time for your bullshit and it’s the best.  If you read Valor’s Choice and don’t love Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr, we can’t be friends any more.

“But, Amanda, what is Valor’s Choice about?” you might ask.  Well, I’ll tell you.  Out there in space is a group known as the Confederation, who have become allies.  In their experience, a race doesn’t invent interstellar travel until they have moved passed the desire for violence, so the alliance has been a happy and peaceful one.  But nobody told The Others that only peaceful races invent interstellar travel.  When The Others begin encroaching on space already claimed by the Confederation, it is pointed out to them that expansion in any other direction of space would be more prudent.  The Confederation send teams of diplomats again and again and only end up with dead diplomats.  The Confederation begin to realize that if they don’t change their strategies, they will all end up dead.  They have no clue, at this point in their development, how to go about fighting and very little desire to do so.  So they go looking for species who won’t be completely freak out by the thought of aliens but still “primitive” enough to be capable of war.  They find humans first.  The Confederation offer extended life spans, new technology, and colony worlds, all in exchange for a few humans who are willing to fight.  The humans join up and the Confederation now has two military branches, the Marines and the Navy.  Soon, the humans are joined by the Krai and the di’Taykan, who are also “young” species with minimal space flight capabilities and strong military factions on their home worlds, given the same offer as humans.

The start of Valor’s Choice sees Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr’s platoon just back from a rough planet fall.  Everybody is looking forward to some time off to relax and break in the new recruits.  General Morrison has other ideas.  He has assigned Sh’quo Company to be the honor guard on a diplomatic mission to a planet where it is hoped a fourth species will become part of the Confederation’s military.  It will be easy duty, the general says, almost as good as the time off the platoon was expecting!  Torin isn’t happy that her battle weary troops aren’t getting the rest they deserve, but orders are orders and she puts together the requested personnel.  Things seem to be going well on Silsviss until suddenly, they aren’t.  A missile hits the troop carrier while en route to yet another diplomatic function and suddenly Torin has to evacuate the civilians and her troop through a swamp.

What follows is an action packed, emotional, funny, breathless ride.  Xenobiology is not Tanya Huff’s strong suit, but her characters more than make up for any failings in that regard.  I believe the Kindle version is currently under six bucks, so there is no reason to pick this up today!  I do, however, not really recommend the audiobook version.  The reader sounds like Wendie Malick, who, don’t get me wrong, is awesome, but a military badass she is not.  But other than that, I recommend Valor’s Choice without reservation.

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