Book Review: The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer (Terra Ignota #3)



Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 368 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: December 19th 2017





Publisher’s description

The long years of near-utopia have come to an abrupt end.

Peace and order are now figments of the past. Corruption, deception, and insurgency hum within the once steadfast leadership of the Hives, nations without fixed location.

The heartbreaking truth is that for decades, even centuries, the leaders of the great Hives bought the world’s stability with a trickle of secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction could ever dominate. So that the balance held.

The Hives’ façade of solidity is the only hope they have for maintaining a semblance of order, for preventing the public from succumbing to the savagery and bloodlust of wars past. But as the great secret becomes more and more widely known, that façade is slipping away.

Just days earlier, the world was a pinnacle of human civilization. Now everyone—Hives and hiveless, Utopians and sensayers, emperors and the downtrodden, warriors and saints—scrambles to prepare for the seemingly inevitable war.


Book Review


Provocative, political, philosophical and almost too clever for its own good, The Will to Battle  is the third installment in Ada Palmer’s ambitious Terra Ignota quartet and, as a fan of this series from the beginning, I wasn’t disappointed at all.

I won’t detail the plot too much because, at this point in the series, it’s so complicated that I would probably do a poor job. However, I will just disclose what the title already tells you about the book. This book is not about the battle but the will to battle: what precedes the battle and the calm before the storm. It is about the making of a war , it’s about preventing humanity from destroying itself, it’s also about the stars and the future of humanity beyond Earth. It’s about the ending of what was considered the perfect society.

I feel like this series represents what speculative fiction does the best: make us rethink our vision of the world. This series is based on a very simple question: how would the world be if you could make a world tour in a few hours? You could live in Tokyo, work in New York and visit your friends in Russia in a day. In this world, borders wouldn’t mean anything and countries would be rendered obsolete. How the world would end up looking like if you could choose your government and your laws not just thanks to your geographical location but simply with your true political beliefs?

In this utopian world where people have a complete choice of their leadership and values, live in peace and have access  to universal education, healthcare and a world without crimes, what could draw you to war?

This book explores this issue while discussing the consequences of such a war on the future of humanity. Indeed, at this point in time and with the technology available, this war could be the end of humanity. The Will to Battle is about leaders doing their best to prevent things from getting too ugly and too deadly while dealing with the issues that lead to the conflict. This idea of a war solely based on ideas and not geographical location is fascinating because, since borders don’t exist anymore, who are you supposed to fight against or with?

As usual with Palmer’s work, this book features a ton of philosophical ideas and, as the war approaches, the philosophers mentionned become less and less idealistic, the first book heavily featured Voltaire, this one is much more focused on Hobbes.

This book is also very much focused on politics and laws. It features a couple chapters solely based on laws that I personally found very interesting but I can understand why a few readers didn’t find them as compelling as I did since those passages were quite long and detailed. Some might find them too info-dumpy but I really liked how knowing about the law in this world allowed me to understand how it all worked.

The Will to Battle took me just over a month to read and that’s not because I found it bad, on the contrary, I never wanted it to end. I just wanted to stay in this fascinating world and see how the events would unfold. The evolution of the events in this series are mindblowing and I am just amazed by the sheer scope of the story. I cannot wait to see how Palmer is going to end this quartet. This series was an achievement from book one and it keeps on getting better. I feel like Palmer is pushing the boundaries of science fiction and what it can do.

This book was great discussion starter, I had a lot of very interesting discussiions with reader and non-reader friends alike and that’s the best thing I could ever ask from a book. Sure this series is not for everyone, the books are complex and quite dense, it is political, philosophical and very odd but I love it. I want the next book, Perhaps the Stars, in my hands now. And I mean with a name like that, I know I’m not going to be disappointed…


Highly recommended.


I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer (Terra Ignota #3)

  1. I’m definitely making sure to start this series at some point. I wish I had started when the first book released, because it’s hard now to go back and catch up, but after reading all your glowing reviews how can I not? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so excited to read this series and I’ve just not got round to it yet (bad reader!) … knowing that book four is imminent just might light a fire under my butt. That, and your most excellent review. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have bought two copies of ‘Too Like the Lightning’ and I still don’t have a copy, because I keep sharing this series with people like I am promoting a religion. I don’t want anyone I care about to miss this experience, plus I need people I can discuss it with. Just finished ‘The Will to Battle’ and can’t wait for ‘Perhaps the Stars’. Wonderful, detailed and complicated works.

    Liked by 1 person

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