Well this book is the conclusion to the mini-arc that is the beginning of the New Frontier series.
A lot of elements have been thrown into the boil here. We have Shelby seriously contemplating relieving Calhoun of command, we of course have the situation on the planet below, Si Cwan and Kebron have been captured and taken to Si Cwan's home planet. The two-front war has been upgraded to three.
OK so this book does have one bad point. That little girl is back from "Into the Void", she is paraded in front of Calhoun to try and make him change his mind, she is described as follows...
"...Her eyes as deep as the depth of space"
Oh please, it almost made me want to fire the quantum torpedoes myself. Anyhoo if that attempt to manipulate Calhoun was supposed to work, it didn't. He expressly tells his crew to target populated areas, he means business. What follows is a contrived, yet effective countdown scene, neither side wanting to admit that they're bluffing. Calhoun loses this particular game of chicken. He doesn't lose for long, because...CENSORED...that resolution I talked about earlier takes place here, to tell you about it would ruin an intelligent solution to the problem, so I won't, you'll just have to read the book.
Anyway lets just pretend that this little dilemma has been solved, what remains is Si Cwan and Kebron being held against their will, in an amusing scene Kebron declares their cell to be an embassy, so no-one including the guards can enter without his permission.
The crew of the Excalibur manage to work out what happened to their runabout and so eventually are in orbit around Thallon. There Calhoun meets his brother, now living rather opulently, which Calhoun doesn't like one bit. The reason? After the Federations intervention, the uprising was over and Calhoun's brother ended up setting up trade routes with their mortal enemies while M'k'n'zy was away at Starfleet Academy. At this point a stark revelation is made known, one that ties in many elements and answers many questions, but yet again you're going to have to read to book to find out.
On the planet Calhoun meets Ryjaan, who's father Calhoun killed in combat, but Ryjaan believes that Si Cwan is to blame. Calhoun gives evidence that it was indeed he and then a battle commences between the two.
This scene is for want of a better phrase "the final showdown". In true action movie tradition the setting is the mountains of Thallon, the planet has been suffering from some severe geologic instability to say the least, cue earthquakes, pits of lava, crumbling cliffs etc.
To cut a long story short Calhoun wins, his rival is killed falling into some lava...Calhoun is saved in the nick of time. He arrives on the bridge just in time to witness...well...um... a giant bright bird hatch from the planet Thallon...there I said it. This series like I said before definitely has a greater fantasy quotient than all the others. Now I know it sounds ridiculous in theory, this is definitely an idea that people will either love or hate. Me? I loved it, the fact that in legend is was known, as "The Great Bird of the Galaxy" is a wonderful idea, an ideal homage to the man that created Trek in the first place. It's a good idea to end a book on a slightly mythical note, it gave me something to ponder anyway.
There really is one thing I can say, go and read this book, I can't recommend this enough, of course to understand what's going on, you have to read the other three, that shouldn't be too much of a chore though.