The Star Kingdom of Manticore is once again at war with the Republic of Haven after a stunning sneak attack. The graduating class from Saganami Island, the Royal Manticoran Navy's academy, are going straight from the classroom to the blazing reality of all-out war. Except for the midshipmen assigned to the heavy cruiser HMS Hexapuma, that is. They're being assigned to the Talbott Cluster, an out of the way backwater, far from the battle front. The most they can look forward to is the capture of the occasional pirate cruiser and the boring duty of supporting the Cluster's peaceful integration with the Star Kingdom at the freely expressed will of eighty percent of the Cluster's citizens. With a captain who may have seen too much of war and a station commander who isn't precisely noted for his brilliant and insightful command style, it isn't exactly what the students of Honor Harrington, the "Salamander," expected. But things aren't as simple - or tranquil - as they appear. The "pirates" they encounter aren't what they seem, and the "peaceful integration" they expected turns into something very different. A powerful alliance of corrupt Solarian League bureaucrats and ruthless interstellar corporations is determined to prevent the Cluster's annexation by the Star Kingdom...by any means necessary. Pirates, terrorists, genetic slavers, smuggled weapons, long-standing personal hatreds, and a vicious alliance of corporate greed, bureaucratic arrogance, and a corrupt local star nation with a powerful fleet, are all coming together, and only Hexapuma, her war-weary captain, and Honor Harrington's students stand in the path. They have only one thing to support and guide them: the tradition of Saganami. The tradition that sometimes a Queen's officer's duty is to face impossible odds...and die fighting.