Without Question Review – Jade Falcons Redeemed

BattleTech‘s most recent novel is Without Question by Bryan Young, who was kind enough to send a copy to Sarna for review. I’ve tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but know there are a few plot hooks discussed below. 


Without QuestionThroughout my reading of Without Question, I kept running into the same problem: how do you root for the bad guys? I know the Jade Falcons aren’t the bad guys anymore—not after being nearly annihilated, anyway. They’re the scrappy underdogs just out to survive in a universe that eats up anything that can’t defend itself.

But for my entire life, the Jade Falcons were the bad guys. Oh sure, there were good people within Clan Jade Falcon, like Aidan and Diana and Marthe Pryde, Horse, and Johanna (sort of), but these were the exceptions that made their stories so interesting to read about. The tension of these characters trying to be good and honorable when everyone else is trying to be assholes made them likable.

Even with these great characters, I’ve never liked the Jade Falcons. They’ve always been one of the worst Clans doing some of the cruelest things and calling it honorable behavior in the name of their high and mighty Clan. Indeed, most of BattleTech history has Clan Jade Falcon as the villains in most stories.

Things are different now. Malvina Hazen is dead, her Mongol Doctrine gone with her, and the vast majority of Clan Jade Falcon lies in ruins.  Everyone left behind is basically the opposite of what Clan Jade Falcon stood for. Instead of rigidity, you’ve got adaptability. Instead of truebirth warrior purity, you’ve got a Clan embracing freebirths. And instead of threats and bullying, you’ve got this strange thing called compromise.

Clan Jade Falcon

With everything that was so unlikeable about the Jade Falcons gone, you’re left with something you should be sympathetic to. And yet, I’ve got such a history of hating this Clan that there’s always a part of me thinking they should just get obliterated so we can finally be done with Clan Jade Falcon once and for all. Even if what’s left of Clan Jade Falcon has almost nothing to do with what came before.

Without Question is the culmination of Clade Jade Falcon’s redemption arc. From treacherous jerks during the Clan Invasion to literal Space Fascists during the Dark Age, and finally, the plucky band of MechWarriors desperately attempting to rehabilitate their image after almost a century of bad press. 

I will begrudgingly admit that Without Question managed to pull it off. It feels gross to even say it, but the remaining Jade Falcons (bar a few who don’t survive for too long) are all just so damned likable. Every character embodies the wisdom of second chances, from the kid taken off the streets of a Ghost Bear world to become a Star Commander in the Jade Falcon touman to the failed MechWarrior given a second Trial of Position just because the Clan was so desperate for bodies. Even Khan Jiyi Chistu is given a second chance as he would never have risen to the position had Malvina survived. 

But while all the individual characters have received second chances, it’s slightly less believable that Clan Jade Falcon has also been given a second chance. The reader is reminded throughout the book of the utterly horrible atrocities Clan Jade Falcon performed following its invasion, especially under the reign of Malvina Hazen. She massacred civilians by the score, leveling cities and leaving millions to starve after she stripped entire worlds to prepare for her mad dash to Terra. There’s a reason why The Hinterlands are this hodgepodge of proto-nations and independent worlds: nobody wants to be ruled by Clan Jade Falcon. Period. 

Jiyi Chistu

This, of course, makes it a completely uphill battle for Jiyi Chistu to rebuild the Clan and retake worlds that have declared their independence. A large section of Without Question deals with exactly how Clan Jade Falcon can convince civilians that they’re a different sort of Clan, and how they can make amends for the atrocities performed while Malvina was Khan. 

This portion of the narrative felt strained. Maybe this is the Nova Cat/Spirit Cat fan in me talking, but there’s a point at which renaming should be discussed along with rebranding—especially with so few Jade Falcons remaining and even more especially when part of your touman is composed of former Ghost Bears (see A Question of Survival for the story there). Then again, Germany and Japan didn’t rename themselves after World War 2, but those nations still had large populations that saw themselves as German and Japanese. The civilians of the former Jade Falcon Occupation Zone often didn’t see themselves as Falcons; that’s why The Hinterlands even exists, after all. 

I dunno what I’d call a hypothetical rebranded Clan Jade Falcon. I know people have been referring to the remnants as New Jade Falcon, but that just seems far too New Coca-Cola. They could’ve taken a page out of the Scorpion Empire, but with so few worlds under their control, calling the remaining Falcon worlds an empire is a bit of a stretch. 

Anyway, if it’s not abundantly clear after the first few chapters that Without Question is a story of reformation and redemption, then the final chapter spells it out when one of the characters says she “never wants to be looked at as a monster ever again.” Whether that happens or not will have to be answered in future books, but after some heroics, some victories, and a few compromises that the old Jade Falcons would never have agreed to, it becomes apparent that the new Jade Falcons are a very different breed. And whether or not you want the Jade Falcons to be rehabilitated will definitely color your view of the novel. 

Gyrfalcon

The presence of mercenary units and the general feel of combat in Without Question are likely to be universally well-received, as is the trend toward smaller engagements in novels, with rarely more than a Star of ‘Mechs on either side being described at any time. It makes things a little easier to follow for the reader and a little easier to re-enact for casual players. 

It also brings BattleTech back to a simpler time when individuals mattered far more in determining the outcome of events. Instead of the high politics of national leaders, you have negotiations between single officers within the Clan. I’d almost describe the feeling as cozy if one could ascribe the notion to anything in BattleTech. Intimate is perhaps a better term. 

One of the things that Without Question made me realize is just how the Clans have changed entirely from being conquerors to being actual protectors and even political reformers—something the Inner Sphere has rarely seen. The Great Houses have a long history of being awful to their citizens and the citizens of other nations, and then the Clans arrive and eliminate the aristocratic hold on a lot of worlds. Say what you will about the Clan’s caste system and military dictatorship, but fast-forward a century and many Clans are abandoning the caste system (and sometimes even their eugenics programs) in favor of being merely a national military. One could even argue the Clans returned interplanetary democracy to the Inner Sphere with the Rasalhague Dominion and Raven Alliance

Turkina

As with their rebranding efforts, it remains to be seen exactly how the Jade Falcons will manage things, but there are some hopeful signs that a far more progressive form of civilian self-governance is emerging in this reborn Clan. That, perhaps more than anything, points to the Jade Falcons now being on the short list of BattleTech’s ‘good guys’ (if you can call any particular faction in BattleTech that).

It’s nice having someone to root for again, especially after the Ghost Bears have become mired in a civil war and I still haven’t heard hide nor hair of the Nova Cat/Spirit Cats. Perennial good guy Clan Wolf seems to be moments away from a heel turn, so I’m mistrustful of this new Star League. Frankly, I’d rather hear about the smaller-scale stuff anyway. And if the Spirit Cats are still out of order, then I guess the Jade Falcons will do.

Without Question is available now directly from Catalyst or wherever good books are sold.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

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About Sean

Hooked on BattleTech at an early age, Sean honestly can't remember whether it was the cartoon, the serial novels or the short-lived TCG that did him in. Whatever it was, his passion for giant shooty robots never died, so now he writes about the latest and greatest in 'Mech related news.

30 thoughts on “Without Question Review – Jade Falcons Redeemed

  1. Jeremy M Ward

    The Nova Cat/Spirit Cats are basically secondary units of Clan Sea Fox by this point. The Clan Protectorate will still be around as a thorn to be used to move Marik in the eventual direction of a new Star Leauge, as Marik is still dependent on Sea Fox weapons and goods to reclaim their territory from the leftovers of Clan Wolf. I did enjoy this novel, though the Hell’s Horses need to come up with some better tactics before they get erased. As for the Clans as protectors, we’ve had Clan Wolf in Exile during Operation Bulldog, the Nova Cats also during Bulldog, the first Combine Ghost Bear War, and entering into the service of the Republic of the Sphere. Smoke Jaguar also redeemed themselves until the Rotsies went poof and they reformed. Let’s also look at the Nova Cats trying to keep the Kurita line going before Toranaga and the reactionaries killed them off, CWinE battling Jade Falcon during the Dark Age, Katrina Steiner in the Fedcom Civil War, Wolf’s Dragoons during the Clan Invasion, and Snord’s Irregulars.

    What you see now is the wheel turning. The Falcons became overzealous with the Wars of Reaving and the Jihad, and that led to the logical end of Mongol tactics. Now they’ve been forced to take care of those they conquered, and like the Mongols, are evolving into rulers and stewards, only to be eventually amalgamated into a new culture

    Reply
  2. Samuel Crosbie

    To me, I’m sorry if this offends, but it’s like a modern society or organozation taking up a banner of a certain WWII nation that I and my family, culture and people absolutely despise with all our hearts. There is literally no way I will ever be able to not equate them with that particular country. No matter what good deeds they do, that reputation will remain forever. It took the Fidelis a lifetime of service and secrecy to completely recreate and revamp everything about them to erase their stigma. And renaming themselves just brought it all right back, despite all they did. And the Falcons don’t even bother to rename. Amongst their own, yeh sure I’m certain things are all hunkydory, but me? You can paint a leopard solid, but it still has its spots.

    Reply
    1. Samuel Crosbie

      I will also mention, however, I am still gonna buy the book. A good read is still a good read
      And who knows? Maybe I can learn a thing or two and change my mind.

      Reply
  3. heinzbond

    i was never friend of the clans at whole, not as factions, not as foe, not as friends or characters, not even in the blood of kerensky trilogy…
    especially not the Wolves, the Jaguars, the Bears, the Cats, everything with a Snake, Blood or Bird in emblem…
    the ultra fascistoid concept of trueborn, Bloodname et al never made me feel comfortable…
    descendants from Star League Army (the first one, left for good not once, but twice…20 times forty soldiers… and they conquer later, a little later a quarter of the sphere…
    and i thought FASAnomics were bad…
    oh were was iam, ah in look for a badie boy of clan origin, someone really bad…
    I would take that Alaric Wolf/Ward/Steiner-Davion/First Lord guy… Malvina was Crazy and very dumb written…
    Alaric is in no way better than Malvina, he seems not to kill, pillage and burn but, hell he brings war, destruction and caln rules to terra… not better than malvina, or maybe a piece of three atoms better the first…okay i would rather had chosen the care bears if we need a ilclan, never the jades, never the ravens… nor the cats or jaguars…the horses… not that they had enough text to totally dislike them for me… eating half of the Wolf clan occupation zone, and destroying an ally by the way… hell yeah someone you trust a Ilcanate…
    with all of that clan warriors left, i can’t see how in the heck the ilclan era will last 200+ years… i mean Liao, Kurita, even the Steiners and Davions should have enough manpower to bring one planet back to civilisation…
    a badie for the rest of the sphere, how about the “lions” who did the attack on the HPG? oh and even as i think toga in space aka rome reloaded, aka Marian Hegemony will be gone soon, so no slavers to despise… maybe the crazy parts of Taurus return?? or the Goliaths scorpion emperor decides to go full blown??? he that’s the only claners i tend to accept as faction not to hate, but far from i like…
    oh there some crazies left outta there, some Aggressors, maybe we will see them??? hope not, but aint no line developer…

    Reply
    1. Armchair Colonel 74

      Ah yes spelling
      That aside you do not need to attempt to write a miniature essay on the subject, simply say that you don’t appreciate the Clans as they first appear and your hopes as they seem to be and leave it at that.

      Reply
  4. AlphaBlu

    The Falcons should forever remain the Falcons.

    You can’t take the (green bird-filled) sky from me!

    Reply
  5. Steel Shanks

    3rd times a charm eh? My comments seem to completely disappear lately… Even while holding back…

    The Jade Falcons should just fade into the sunset. How many Clans started out? How they doing now? Hilarious. The Clans are terrible… Worse than the worst the Inner Sphere can create. The eugenics warriors, following the magic-make-believe-warrior-culture of an insane man with daddy issues… Worse, they don’t even know how incredibly flawed their made-up culture is! I laugh every time a Clan disappears… Who would have thought they couldn’t work out? I don’t understand their popularity…

    Lastly, this author is the author who thought He could change Anastasius Focht… I’ll never buy a book from Him ever. Ye don’t mess with Focht… Ever… Never Forget, Tukayyid 5-20-3052

    Reply
    1. Sean Post author

      Your initial post was removed for violating our community rule regarding personal attacks. You may criticize the story, but personal attacks against an author are verboten.

      Reply
      1. Scott

        Just asking out of ignorance, we may not question any author in any way shape or form? There are people who do not agree with the Jade Falcons trying to be resurrected. Sean, there is also an issue of the Author being antagonistic towards people in the Battletech community who do not his style of work. How would you go about engaging an Author writing Battletech cannon which you might find lacking?

        Reply
        1. Sean Post author

          There’s a difference between questioning an author and personal attacks. For an example on how to question an author, tune in next month for my interview with Bryan!

          Reply
          1. Scott

            Sean,

            Bryan has already been on multiple YouTube channels, Facebook pages, and other websites for book reviews and interviews. I guess one more at this point would be will not make a difference. At this point its oversaturation. I would like to see you question for Bryan which cover issues like: Why you feel the need to write controversial characters in your stories? Many people, not getting into politics, are having issues with his style of writing and his storytelling. Would like to see where Bryan is getting his guidance from, is he getting ideas from Catalyst Leadership for the direction they want to go or is Bryan coming up with his own story ideas which get approved by Catalyst? Last question I would like to see asked is what does Bryan think about the older generation of people who supported BattleTech? Bryan has stated many times that he wants to bring new people into BattleTech, which is great for the hobby, but is there still room for the Gen X players who supported BattleTech when it wasn’t very popular? Those are the questions I would like to see asked opposed to questions Bryan has already answered in his other interviews.

          2. Bryan Young

            I’m happy to answer those questions of Scott’s, even if the tone of them is a little bit combative.

            1. To your first question, I’d be interested to know “What controversial characters?” To this point I haven’t heard of any controversies about the characters I’ve created and if there are any, please elaborate so I can give you a better answer.

            2. There are definitely some folks who don’t like my writing, but there is no piece of art that is universally beloved. In BattleTech you’ll find people who think the Gray Death Legion to be awful or the Warrior trilogy to be bad. And some people think the worst is the best. Taste is subjective, but the vast majority of folks who I see at cons and events and interact with online seem to be enjoying it. So it’s not really on me to worry about what a vocal minority feels because no matter what the piece of art is, there’s going to be folks vocal about not liking it. So if there’s a specific criticism, I’d love to hear it so I can address it more specifically.

            3. My guidance comes from the line developers and the editors and the story team moving the entire story forward in BattleTech. I was part of that team that included everyone from Loren and Randall to Ray and Aaron to Mike Stackpole and John Helfers and Phil Lee and Michael Ciaravella and Jason Schmetzer and a few others. It’s a team effort. My stories came out of that summitt for the forward direction of the universe. Fox Patrol is really the only work I’m doing that’s just sort of me doing my thing on my own and then it gets approved or changed. But that’s because they aren’t really affecting the broader universe. So, the CGL writing team is more cohesive and unified and collaborative than it’s ever been. Every book really is a team effort.

            4. I think they’re great! I’ve talked to so many in my time at cons and events and as someone who has been playing in some form or another since 1993, it’s great to see people who have been in it even longer than I have. At an event last night, a guy came in and had me sign his original FASA Star League book because he likes my work and he’s had others involved in BattleTech sign that book, too. I also had another of those older fans told me the thing that makes BattleTech better than Warhammer is how dynamic the story is and how it continues to evolve and move forward. And we all sat at a table together and played BattleTech while teaching new players as well. It’s a really great way to combine all the aspects of the community. Why wouldn’t there be room for those players unless they want to be jerks or exclusionary or something? BattleTech is for everyone!

            Thanks for the questions. And don’t hesitate to reach out if you have more!

        2. Brian

          trying to ressurect the Jade Falcons? that’s a weird take. The falcons where already eistablished as survivijng in Tamar rising. it’s not like Brian went rogue and ressurected them in a book without the imput of anyone else

          Reply
    2. Bryan Young

      I think you bought into a little bit of propaganda about the Focht thing.

      A – The point I was trying to make that has been taken out of context repeatedly is that in the Blood of Kerensky books Phelan thought Focht could have been trans and it was literally no big deal (as it should be) in the BattleTech universe.

      B – Even if Focht were trans, there shouldn’t be a problem with that. That’s not “messing” with him. It’s adding a new layer or dimension to his character.

      Now that we’ve cleared that up and there’s no issue, I hope you can find some joy in this book I poured my heart and soul into!

      Reply
      1. Steel Shanks

        What I WANT to say is verboten…

        So, no “propaganda” I saw what You yerself wrote, and You were then shot down by Stackpole, which was hilarious. That’s not “adding layers/dimension” at all… That’s a complete change My dude.

        Lastly, there is issue… And will be, with many fans like Me. I’m not reading not only because it’s yer book, but because I don’t care what happens to Jade Falcon. All the Clans are terrible. Heart and Soul is doubtful… Pressing X to doubt for sure. Nice try though.

        Reply
          1. Steel Shanks

            You miss the point because You want to Gaslight… So let Me explain…

            You DO NOT change a FUNDAMENTAL character like Anastasius Focht just to change him. That is a CORE change, changing the character completely. Focht has been defined for years, retired, etc. etc. That’s like saying Victor Steiner-Davion was actually a Liao the whole time, or saying that Vader fathered Three Children, not two, etc. etc. We, I include Myself because I’m an Illustrator, as Artists, Writers, etc. DO NOT have the right to fundamentally change important characters like that on a whim. That’s why when it IS done, ( i.e. see the Witcher TV series, Rings of Power, etc. ) it is completely destroyed, and can decimate Franchises, IP’s, whatever ye want to call it. Respect the Lore and Canon, or do not contribute to it Sir.

          2. Bryan Young

            I legitimately don’t see how Focht becoming trans changes the core of the character at all. And they did change Vader. First he was retconned to have one kid. Then two. And if he sired a different one, we’d engage the text to recontextualize our knowledge of what came before. Honestly, that’s the thing I’ve loved about every iteration of Star Wars. The new adventures help me recontextualize and better understand with new nuance the old ones. Star Wars isn’t destroyed. And if Focht turned out to be trans, he wouldn’t be destroyed either. All of those franchises you mentioned are doing fine. I guess it just sounds like much ado about nothing.

  6. Nopesauce

    I’m looking forward to see the Inner Sphere’s reaction to the attempt the Falcons are making to make their reputation better. As another comment said, the Jade Falcons are, to most factions, objectively evil and too horrid to even speak their names.
    Anyway, this book had some great moments, and some… less great moments, but overall I hope we get to see these Jade Falcons again sometime.

    Reply
  7. Scott

    Just asking out of ignorance, we may not question any author in any way shape or form? There are people who do not agree with the Jade Falcons trying to be resurrected. Sean, there is also an issue of the Author being antagonistic towards people in the Battletech community who do not his style of work. How would you go about engaging an Author writing Battletech cannon which you might find lacking?

    Reply
    1. Brian

      The Jade Falcons being ressurected is NOT something Bryan did. He didn’t run off and rogue ressurect them, he took a plot hook eistablished in the sourcebook and wrote about it. He did not go renegade and ressurect the clan in a manuscript he turned in at random and refused to change it.

      Reply
  8. Max

    Napoleon came back from exile, nothing. He was still the bad guy.

    What? I’m not allowed a meme??!?!

    Thanks for the review I have not got this one yet! Vacation soon and need books to bring. Will add to the list.

    Reply
  9. Steel Shanks

    I sincerely hope Bryan Young has his own world / franchise in the works… I don’t think BattleTech is for Him in all honesty. Ah well…

    Reply
    1. huskwindlass

      the stream said he’s got another book coming next year, is co-writing the graphic novels with Stackpole, and writing at least two more novels already.

      the direction CGL is going is pretty clear and I for one am on board.

      Reply
      1. Steel Shanks

        What direction is that pre-tell? Funny ye keep alluding to something without saying it?

        That’s fine… Write away Bryan Young, but Myself, My friends, etc. won’t be buying his books. And if his interactions with BattleTech Fans are like his recent ones, He’ll start losing books. Which in all honesty would be completely beneficial to BattleTech. Funny how small amounts of criticism show up, all of a sudden Young is being defended by so many diehard fans of his… Lol…

        I know for My own works, I’ve never given Myself a Five Star Review, than got in trouble for it… Anyone else have SIMILAR stories? Anyone?

        Reply
        1. huskwindlass

          He didn’t get in trouble for it either. that was a total non-issue. And yeah, he has a lot of fans because his stuff is really good, something BattleTech lacked under BLPs control. No one can honestly say HOTW was good. But yeah, the direction their heading is interesting and the characters are taking center stage in stuff that feels like old bt but modern again. and guys like Young and Ciaravella (Damocles sanction was really good) and Shmetzer and Reed are just doing really good stuff.

          Reply
          1. Sean Post author

            Shutting this thread down too. Keep it civil or take it to social media please.

          2. Brian

            BLP was never in control of Battletech, the guy just wishes he was and tried to bully his way into it.
            And THAT is why he was fired.

    2. huskwindlass

      they said on one of the streams that he’s got another book next year, is working with mike stackpole on the graphic novels, and at least two more novels he’s working on.

      CGL is being pretty clear with the direction they’re heading and i’m on board with it.

      Reply

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