Tricked by genetic supermen into restarting the war against Manticore, Haven's leaders struggle with evidence that they, not Manticore, were the aggressors. With Admiral Honor Harrington launching attacks against them and with new Manticore technology coming quickly on line, Haven sees three options--surrender, victory, or a negotiated settlement. Although a negotiated settlement sticks in their craws with apparent victory in their grasps, Haven's leaders reach out to Haven. But the genetic supermen of Mesa have their own plans--and peace between Haven and Manticore, the two powers most antithetical to Mesa's interests, is something they'll move mountains to avoid. One thing they can count on, Queen Elizabeth of Manticore will definitely believe the worst anyone can believe of Haven.
Honor Harrington is busy managing her relationship with Hamish Whitehaven and his wife Emily, a relationship made more complicated when Honor becomes unexpectedly pregnant. Still, she is a soldier, and makes time to manage attacks on Haven systems. Her nearly infalible judgment, coupled with new superweapons that arrive just in the nick of time, mean that Honor's battles result in either victory without cost to her forces, or at worst, Pyric victories for Haven. Still, Haven holds an edge in numbers and has been doing its best to cope with Manticore's technological advances. And after the idiocy of Haven's previous governments, its current leaders both value competence and honor.
Virtually every book in the Honor Harrington series takes a similar pattern. At home, Honor is hounded by newsmen seeking gossip and rumors about her private life. Meanwhile, Haven holds a huge advantage in numbers. Even tactical brilliance by Honor seems able only to delay the inevitable victory by Haven's forces. However, at the last minute a new and unexpected superweapon, one only Honor has, changes the calculus of war and the result is an 'unanticipated' victory by Honor and Manticore. AT ALL COSTS certainly follows this formula to a 'T,' with the bonus of adding Havenite advances that threaten to reverse the scenerio. If you don't like the formula, don't read the book--it's that simple.
Within the constraints of the formula, AT ALL COSTS is a superior story. Throughout the series, Haven has become more and more admirable. While they were simply the 'evil empire' in the early stories, attempting expansion as a sop for the welfare-engorged citizens, they have become increasingly sympathetic. I'm certain I'm not alone in rooting for their victory--in fact, I suspect that author David Weber (see more BooksForABuck.com books by Weber) is getting a bit tired of Manticore victories against Haven and is setting the scene for an alliance between the two powers to confront the massive Solar League, or at least the part of the League co-opted by Mesa.
AT ALL COSTS is a war book. Huge fleets of starships, holding hundreds of thousands of sailors, battle and kill. Weber gives us the calculations, the accelerations, the throw weights of the different systems, the percentage of missiles that carry harmless electronic warfare systems, the different defensive systems adopted by Haven and Manticore. If you (like me) find this kind of analysis interesting, you'll definitely want to check out AT ALL COSTS. It's certainly a superior entry in the Honor Harrington series.
As an added bonus, the hardcover edition includes a CD containing eBook versions of the earlier books in the series. It certainly brings down the cost per book to affordable levels.