Operation Lionhearted review–important themes of identity and choice, well-handled political intrigue, and complex characters

“Everything that’s ever happened to you has led up to this moment, Lindy,” Ethan said. “Your childhood on Meridian, your training, even your writing… it’s all been groundwork. You’re already got everything you need up here–” He tapped her forehead with his fingertip. “–and here.” He pointed at her chest. “And you know what else? I believe in you, and I’m with you every step of the way.”

Lindy tried to smile. “That’s a lot of faith in a woman who’d just like to go home and curl up with her cat.”

“Which is precisely why I’d rather follow you into battle than anybody else. You’re not in this for ambition’s sake. You just want to do what’s right. That sounds to me like a good leader in the making.”

Operation Lionhearted, Maribeth Barber


*exhales deeply*

Hello, dear readers. It’s been an interesting last few days for me, and as I write this, it’s less than an hour till midnight in my time zone. Which means I have to type fast in order to keep my promise to get this book review out “today” as opposed to “tomorrow” *refuses the temptation to think too hard about the nature of the flow of time and human language conventions and thereby waste more time*

I meant to have this review all typed up and ready to go by early this afternoon at the very latest. But I series of choices and events, some easily predictable and others completely unexpected, led me to where I am now. One of those events was the unexpected refusal of my kindle to work properly, another was one of my managers calling to ask if I could come into work on one of my only days off this week in order to cover for another employee who couldn’t make it in, and yet another was just my own simple procrastination and inability to properly judge the amount of time needed to complete certain tasks.

As I type this review, my kindle’s reading progress bar shows I’m only 72% finished with the book. I feel ashamed by this, but I’m sticking to my commitment to write and publish a review regardless. But please do be aware as you read this review that the fact I haven’t completely finished the book is going to lead this to be more of a discussion of my current thoughts on it, and less of an in-depth analysis of the content and technique. I’ve never been especially great at writing that sort of review, anyway.

The main thing I’d like to talk about in this review of Operation Lionhearted is the themes of the book. This was the subject of one of the questions in my author Q&A with Maribeth last week, and it’s one of the things standing out the most to me as I read it.

Maribeth mentioned that one of the core themes of her novel was about identity, as stories that include a characters faced with a true identity that they have to embrace in order to achieve victory in their personal struggle have always appealed to her. As I’ve been reading Operation Lionhearted, I can see this theme clearly throughout the arcs of the main characters–Lindy Tremaine wrestles with it most prominently, as she struggles to hold the identity she’s built for herself as a fashion reporter and trooper with the Meridian Intelligence Department (which, I must take a moment to state, has some of the coolest high-tech spy gadgets I’ve encountered in sci-fi storytelling for a while) alongside her history as a refugee of a decimated world and an unknown family heritage she’s not sure she ever wants to try to uncover. But it’s also a clear part of Ethan Granger’s tale as well, as he strives to stay true to the choices he’s made with his life and tries not to question whether he should’ve instead given into his mother’s carefully-planned career aspirations for him–aspirations he never really felt called to the way he does his current double life as a starship Captain and one of Lindy’s fellow MID troopers.

One thing I absolutely love about how this theme is woven into the story is that it feels like a constant battle for the characters to keep hold on their identities, especially in Ethan’s case. Although he’s already made his choice by the time the book opens, there is always on some level an on-going struggle for him to remain true to his belief in the path he chose, even as he does deeply believe it is the right one for him to be on. This struggle, albeit perhaps a small part of the overall story, resonates deeply with me, given my own questions about my calling and identity, and the realization I’ve come to over the last few years that these questions are rarely answered once and for all–instead, they’re often convictions that we must be reminded of and have reinforced in us over and over again, not simply a title or label affixed to our person that we remain doubtlessly assured of for the rest of our days. Perhaps this is the way it works for some, but as time goes by, I only become more convinced that it’s not the way it’s going to happen for me, nor is it the way it’s seeming to work for many of the people I respect who are humble enough to share their struggles with me, or my friends who are facing them alongside me.

Along with this theme of identity comes one of personal choice–a reminder that only you can make these decisions for yourself, and at the end of the day, these choices are between you and your Maker–no one can, or should, make them for you. And when called to do so, you must chose the path that is meant for you and no other.

Another aspect of this book I’m deeply appreciating is the way Maribeth handles the political themes present. The story being told addresses a people’s quest for important political and social reform and the ways that even a good and genuine desire for these things can turn sour when got hold of by leaders with less-than-pure motives. I’ve been impressed with the way in which this entire situation is handled–especially as it bears similarities to some rather Hot Issues being discussed around us right now. And while the politics are an important part of the story, at no point while reading have I felt like they’ve taken precedence over the narrative or characters in an attempt to make statements about current issues in our world.

I’m also enjoying the complexities of all the characters. Especially in the cases of those like Councilor Tremaine and President Stagg, it would be incredibly easy to reduce characters to nothing more than archetypes or tropes, as often seems to be done in popular stories with this level of political relevancy. Yet Maribeth steers clear of that, and it’s refreshing and enjoyable to see these characters allowed space to be complex individuals who have valid motivations. And while they do sometimes make decisions our heroes–and by extension, we as the audience–as frustrated or upset by, aren’t simply turned into villains for those choices.

And in Lindy’s case, it’s really nice to see a heroine who is full of questions, insecurities, and flaws, who doesn’t always make the right choices, but who really truly wants to do the right thing by everyone involved, and who has people around her who support her in that end. I also really appreciate that Lindy has multiple people in her life of different ages and perspectives who offer her support and guidance throughout the story. Community is a vital part of the making of a true hero, I believe, and I love seeing that reflected in this story.

Finally for this review, I must announce my abiding and possibly life-love love for Jo Camrin. (Everyone else is wonderful too, of course, but apparently I have an automatic soft spot for characters named ‘Jo’, and this one is no exception.) ❤

Even though I’m not completely finished reading the book myself at this point, I already feel like I can confidently recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, enjoyable science-fiction story with applaudable characters and a healthy dose of political intrigue.


If you haven’t done so already, please head over to Maribeth’s blog at this link, and check out Operation Lionhearted’s Amazon page where *throws confetti* the book is now officially available to download and read RIGHT NOW in ebook form!! (or, if you prefer real actual pages you can hold in your hands, you can order a paperback copy)

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