Book 3, following the career of young Helfort, with things not going so well for him. You definitely need to read Books 1 and 2 before this one, though the author does do a lot of summary to try and ensure it makes sense.
A new command for Helfort, this one a series of un-manned, or lightly manned dreadnaught heavy cruisers. Apart from 10 crew members on the main cruiser, including Helfort, the rest of the 10 ship squadron is un-manned, using AIs to manage those ships. Why? Extra armor and shielding to allow the crew to survive and anti-matter missile and the radiation from its explosion.
Helfort undergoes tremendous training, often failing in the simulations, but persevering. He does at times question whether he’s the right person for the job, especially when he must do extra sessions with Fleet psychologists to recover from the trauma in book 2. He does, and embarks on some missions, single handedly destroying a number of Hammer facilities.
However it’s not all easy. Lots of people within the Fleet are not happy with unmanned ships and there is a limit to how many they allow. 30 in all, 3 groups of 10 with Helfort bringing along two other officers to command those squadrons.
The book covers a lot, including the battle at Devastation Reef, where the Hammer anti-matter factory is. It’s an epic battle, and afterwards, Helfort receives even more scrutiny. The book ends suddenly, however, and somewhat predictably. Anna, the love of his life, was captured by the Hammers when her ship was destroyed. They realize who she is and at the end, use her to try and lure Helfort out. It will make for an exciting book 4.
A great read, but it depends on the other books for background, and it deals with many of the non-military aspects of Helfort’s life. It’s also the first time we get to see the religious leader of the Hammer worlds.