So, look. Typically in my reviews I go the very remedial route of talking about broad themes from the book, how well the characters and/or worldbuilding were developed, and I comment on the pacing and overall competence of the plot. If I am very lucky, something will stand out that either makes me want to rant, or go on a gushing squeefest, and I can write a better than milquetoast review.
When you get to the sixth book in a consistently excellent series, there isn’t much squee left to be gushed. Or gush left to be squeed. By this point, the authors’ commitment to complex, multi-faceted characters and intricate, sophisticated worldbuilding is well established. Discussing the plot at any length means spoiling previous entries in the series. In short, I am at a loss, and it isn’t for lack of deep appreciation or enjoyment of Babylon’s Ashes.
The simple formula for every Expanse installment is that every chapter is told from a different character’s POV. This started very simply, with — if I recall correctly — two characters, whose personalities were very different but were ultimately working on the same puzzle and coming at it from a similar perspective (there appeared to be some shadowy conspiracy that was pitting political powers against each other and they want to uncover it before the shooting begins.) As the series progressed, more diverse perspectives warranted inclusion, often those that are at odds with others, and as the issues explored in the series grew in scope, so did the number of voices, with their own stories. All together, the perspectives give light to a really difficult moral landscape, with no right answers, and our characters stumble through doing the best they can.
Babylon’s Ashes is a war story within a series that’s largely about preventing it on a catastrophic scale. The events of the previous book made military action, in some form or another, inevitable, but Babylon’s Ashes approached the conflict with nuance, parsing out the players from the ideology that caused them to act, and portraying the characters trying, as much as possible, to not let history repeat itself. It’s tense, emotional, depressing, and uplifting at once.
If you’re reading this review, it’s likely that you’re already a fan of the series, so I don’t really need to extend the sales pitch further beyond confirming that, yes, you’re going to want to read this one ASAP.