I approached "Homefall", the fourth and final part of Chris Bunch's "The Last Legion" series with a slight feeling of trepidation. Over the previous three books, the Legion has been in the kind of action you would expect an army defending a remote planet vulnerable to attack to be in. In all cases, the books have been thoroughly enjoyable fast paced action novels.
However, the end of "Stormforce", the third in the trilogy, didn't exactly build "Homefall" up to be as exciting. I approached this book thinking that they would be veering away from war and into the political side of the galaxy. I wasn't really looking forward to this, as when Bunch dipped a toe into the waters of Musth politics in "Firemask", it took the edge and the pace off the novel. I was worried that the same thing would happen here, but I was swiftly proved wrong.
For a long time, the Cumbre system has been isolated from the Confederation, supposedly the centre of the galaxy and the people who run everything. With no obvious immediate effects to Cumbre, they send a party to see if they can get to the Confederation's main world of Centrum to see why there has been no contact in nearly a decade. I expected that they would get to Centrum and it would all be about politics and it would be rather dull.
There were a couple of things I hadn't counted on and it's wonderful that Chris Bunch can twist things and keep them interesting after several books of the series. The first was the method they chose to go to Centrum; Jaansma uses his experience as part of a circus family to hire on performers and train some of the Legion to perform and they travel as a circus ship. Not only does this allow for some moments of comedy, but it also means there is a huge amount of interaction between characters, from the new circus people to the old established characters. Bunch's strength all along has been making the Legion seem like ordinary guys with a tough job and he does the same here.
The other thing I hadn't expected is for the book to be so much about the journey. I thought they would get to Centrum quiet early on and be involved in the political side of things, but the book is more about the journey than the destination. With the journey being so much fun and with the circus not always being made completely welcome on some of the worlds they stop on, Bunch is able to play to his other main strength and keep the action coming and the pace high.
If there is one downside to "Homefall", it's that there is rather a lot of sexual activity going on. This isn't a complete surprise, as I felt the same with "The Last Legion", the first in the series, but I did find it a little unnecessary. Although it was great to see a long standing character who hasn't had much luck in that area finally get a turn. The ending was a little weak as without a further book to drop hints towards seemed a little aimless and the book petered out, although there was a slightly weak effort at tying everything up. Still, after a series this good, maybe Bunch didn't really want it to end.
Strangely, if you're not an existing fan of the series, it matters less here than with the previous couple in the series. Bunch has always written as a series, with one book leading on from another with no explanation and he does so here. However, with such a different approach and so many new characters, you can pick up this book more easily as a newcomer, although it does occasionally refer to past events you wouldn't be familiar with.
In what has been an exciting series, this has been my favourite of all, as it combines all that is best about "The Last Legion" series and adds in the extra excitement and comedy of the circus. Having become used to Bunch's style of writing and the series itself, I thought I knew what to expect, but ended up with even more. Any series than can continue to excite the reader four books in is worthy of praise. "Homefall", as with the whole series, isn't classic literature, but it's certainly wonderful entertainment and definitely worth a read.
Again, as with the whole series, this is a book that you would only really want to read the once, as it has neither the depth nor the intelligence to be worth reading again, despite this being in my mind the best of the four books that make up the "Last Legion" series. If you prefer to buy than to borrow your books, I have seen copies on eBay from £3.00 and the Amazon Marketplace from £2.07. Given that the cheapest new copy I have seen is £5.49 on Amazon, a second hand copy would be recommended over a new one, but only if a copy can't be found to borrow.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk
The Last Legion has questions that need to be answered. Questions that have now become a priority ...Why has there been no word from the Confederation: the Legion's own government and the power behind a thousand star systems? Against all odds, the Last Legion managed to reclaim the volatile Cumbre star system. Isolated at the edge of the galactic empire and outnumbered, it was a hard-fought war. And it was won without any help from the human Confederation government. The Confederation remained ominously silent throughout. Now, to answer these questions, the Legion must travel across galaxies to gather information. But can they keep their mission a secret from enemy forces - and will they have time to discover the truth?