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Halo: Broken Circle by John Shirley is the 13th original novel in the Halo universe, and it’s the first of those novels to feature and all alien cast.  That’s right, there’s not a single human in this book.  I thought an all Covenant cast would provide an interesting break from tradition, and an even more interesting story, but that wasn’t quite the case.

The book is divided into two main parts.  The first part takes place over 3,000 years before the events of the original game and describes the struggles of the Covenant in its infancy, when it was just the two alien species of San ‘Shyuum (Prophets), and Sangheili (Elites).  The second part acts as a side story to the events of games Halo 2, and Halo 3 in that it describes what was happening behind the scenes to cause the (Spoiler Alert for a game that’s been out more than seven years) collapse of the Covenant.

The first part of the novel is by far the more interesting half of the story, as there is a genuine personal struggle between a Prophet leader, Mken ‘Scre’ah’ben, trying to ensure the future of his species and the newly founded agreement to form an alliance with the Elites, and an Elite rebel, Ussa ‘Xellus, who views an alliance with the Prophets as a form of surrender, which is completely unacceptable in his culture.  These two characters are interesting, engaging, and you understand each of their perspectives and what they’re working toward.  Mken fights his physical battles against Ussa, as well as political battles against members of his own species to make sure that the Covenant is built on a solid foundation.  Ussa just wants a place in the universe where he and his people will be left alone and not be forced to surrender to another species.  As I said, their motives are pretty clear, and it’s not difficult to agree with each of them, which in turn makes it difficult to root for one side or the other, and sometimes those are the best kinds of stories, because the line drawn between the protagonist and the antagonist becomes blurred to the point where it’s impossible to determine who the hero is, and you’re forced to really consider both sides of the argument.  I definitely feel like this is where Shirley’s writing is at its best.  It’s smooth, it moves a a quick pace, and most important of all, it’s entertaining.

The second part of the novel is where we hit a few snags.  This section of the story deals with the descendant of Mken, Zo Resken, about 3.400 years later as he uncovers a dangerous conspiracy within the Covenant.  This part of the story is much shorter, much less detailed, and much less interesting.  None of the characters are quite as fleshed out here, and the whole thing just seems like it was pretty hastily thrown together.  Honestly, a part of me wonders if it was never the intention of the author to include the second half of this story, because it just doesn’t quite fit with the first half, and it’s not written nearly as well.  Not to mention, all promotional material for the novel, including the back cover description, really only stress the emphasis on the early days of the Covenant.  Also, I’m not sure if it was on the part of the editor, the printer, or Shirley himself, but there were a few glaring grammatical errors that I noticed while reading through the back half of Broken Circle.  Which again, leads me to believe this part might have been a little rushed.  Also, Zo brings up a really interesting question very early on in this part of the story regarding why humans were never assimilated into the Covenant, which never even comes close to being answered.  I was actually looking forward to finally finding out, but after it was brought up, that was the end of it.  It was a little frustrating.  In my opinion, I feel like it would have been more prudent to scrap the second half of this book entirely, and focus more on the early stages of the Covenant.

So, with all of that being said, I kind of want to recommend this novel because the first half is pretty good, but honestly, the second half just isn’t worth it to me.  If you can find a copy in a library, or you want to spend an afternoon or two in a book store, pick this one up and read through the first section, but put it back on the shelf before starting the second.

The Verdict for Halo: Broken Circle:
Meh…

Upcoming reviews:
Squarriors #2
East of West, Volume 3: There Is No Us TPB
The October Faction #1-#6
Wytches #1-#6
Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Movie)
Secret Wars #1

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

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