“A Peace Divided” follows on directly from “An Ancient Peace”, making it the seventh Torin Kerr book. If you haven’t read the others, don’t start here. Give yourself a treat and read “Valor’s Choice” and come back here when you’ve caught up
Torin Kerr isn’t a Gunnery Sergeant in the Confederation Marines, fighting a war against the Primacy anymore. The war is over. The Primacy are no longer the enemy, if they ever really were.
Now Torin’s life is much more complicated. She leads a Peace Keeper Strike Force, dealing with violent people churning through civilian space in the wake of an unexpected peace. Torin’s not a soldier anymore. Winning now involved more than getting in, killing the enemy and getting her people home. Now she has to uphold the law and make sure as few people as possible, on either side, die while she’s doing it.
“A Peace Divided” is full of action. It opens with a firefight between Torrin’s Peace Keeper Strike Team and a heavily-armed gun-runners and swiftly moves on to a mission to rescue Federation scientists being held hostage by mercenaries. Both situations illustrate the shift in the context of Torin’s violence from fighting a war to keeping the peace.
The book moves beyond the action to reflect on its causes as Torrin asks herself why the Strike Force is necessary and what should really be done about the veteran soldiers, damaged in the war and displaced in the peace, who spread violence and whether she and her people are being manipulated.
Torin is still the heart of this book and it was good to spend more time in her company but I liked the fact that we saw large parts of the story from the point of view of other, usually alien, characters. We shared the experience of a young human mercenary, caught up in violence he doesn’t approve of but can’t walk away from, an elder race scientist who struggles even to imagine violence, until her colleagues fall victim to it and she has to decide whether to fight or die and a pair of Cray coming to terms with marriage and the vulnerability it brings.
I admired Tanya Huff’s skill in presenting the large number of alien species in this book, without confusing me or diluting the identities of the species. I liked her ability to show the species as very different from one another and yet showing that they are still more likely to be bound together by their occupational roles (scientist, soldier) than by their genetics.
The “Humans First” organization (who have now lost the annoying apostrophe) are used not just to demonstrate the power of bigotry and hate but to show that the issues that feed that hatred are real and to suggest that the people who fund the hate have a darker, more personal agenda.
What made “A Peace Divided” compelling was that it kept fusing simple explanations.. The complexity isn’t added just to enrich the puzzle, it’s there because life is like that.
The appeal of Torin’s mantra of getting her people home safe is that it gives her the certainty needed to act decisively but she is aware that it filters out the bigger picture. Now she’s having to confront that there is no officer to frame the bigger picture for her and recognises that she will have to form that picture for herself and her people.