Honor Stephanie Harrington is a fictional character, the eponymous heroine of a series of science fiction books set in the "Honorverse", written by David Weber and published by Baen Books. She is known among the Sphinxian felinoid treecats, by one of whom she has been adopted, as "Dances on Clouds."
An officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy (RMN), the space navy of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, Harrington bears a striking professional resemblance to both the real-life British naval officers Admiral Lord Nelson and Captain Thomas Cochrane, as well as the fictional character Horatio Hornblower. (Weber references the creator of Hornblower at least once, a minor instance of "breaking the fourth wall", as an homage.) Like Nelson, she loses an eye and an arm in combat;(her eye in "Honor of the Queen" and her arm in "In Enemy Hands") her initials are the same as Hornblower's, and like all three officers, she has a genius for tactical command throughout the series and becomes a living legend by using those skills in several major engagements—battles for which the press nicknames her "The Salamander" for always seeming to be "where the fire is hottest." By the tenth main-line novel (Ashes of Victory) Honor has emerged as a strategist of note as well, and has been promoted to the rank of Admiral in both the Manticoran and Grayson space navies.
Other parallels with real history include the political situation. During much of Harrington's career, her native Star Kingdom of Manticore is at war with the neighboring People's Republic of Haven (PRH), a conflict that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Napoleonic Wars between the British Empire and France.
Some of the battles described in the Honor Harrington series resemble real-life sea battles. For instance, the long stern chase described in On Basilisk Station has some parallels with the actions of HMS Kent at the Battle of the Falklands during World War I. Similarly, the deathride by Sarnow's battlecruisers in The Short Victorious War bears a resemblance to similar maneouvres by Admiral von Hipper during the Battle of Jutland. The final actions in The Honor of the Queen contain elements from the battles of the Barents Sea and North Cape during World War II, as well as the Battle of the River Plate.
Honor is one of the few people adopted by a Sphinxian treecat, an intelligent indigenous species. This occurred when she was a child, a rarity among treecat adoptions. She has dubbed her 'cat Nimitz (after World War II Admiral Chester Nimitz). After conducting considerable research on them, she eventually becomes one of the foremost experts on treecats.
Also at the Academy, Harrington unwittingly became the target of a perverse, boorish midshipman, Lord Pavel Young, heir to the Earldom of North Hollow. When he attempted to rape her in the showers, she defended herself, sending him to the hospital. Although the Academy Administrator suspected the truth, her shame and low self esteem kept her from disclosing the details or pressing formal charges. Young thus escaped with a reprimand for conduct unbecoming rather than dismissal from the Academy. Her outstanding abilities (along with some behind the scenes maneuvering by her mentor, Raoul Courvosier) enabled her career to progress steadily, if erratically, despite enmity of the Young clan and its allies' attempts to sabotage her RMN career.
Her midshipwoman or "snotty" cruise aboard HMS War Maiden under Captain Bachfisch allowed her to demonstrate her ability as a combat tactician when, during an engagement with Silesian rebels, the rest of the command team was killed, disabled, or cut off from the rest of the ship, she assumed command. Finishing off the opposing ship, she was promoted, ahead of her class, to ensign.
When Harrington is captured by Haven en route to a new command, the death sentence is ordered to be carried out. Her escape kills a member of Haven's ruling triumvirate, Cordelia Ransom, destroying her private battlecruiser, the PNS (People's Navy Ship) Tepes.
Assuming Harrington was also killed, the PRH propaganda office releases a fake video recording of her "execution". As a result, simultaneous state funerals were staged for her on both Manticore, and Grayson. The Royal Manticoran Navy renames the new Medusa class she had helped inspire to the Harrington class in her honor, although she convinces them (after her return) to retract the change when she returns. The Grayson Space Navy christens the lead starship in their parallel class the GNS Honor Harrington. Despite her similar protests upon her return, the Graysons find various inventive reasons to avoid renaming it, or for removing the 12 meter tall heroic statue of her outside the main entrance to Grayson's Parliament building –— much to her embarrassment.
At the opening of At All Costs, Honor is appointed commanding officer of the cruiser HMS Unconquered, the RMN's equivalent of HMS Victory or USS Constitution — a ship kept in commission for its historical significance. Appointment to the crew is a largely ceremonial honor bestowed by the Manticoran monarch.
Honor Harrington's rank and titles as of the end of the events in At All Costs include Admiral of the Fleet and Captain HMS Unconquered Lady Dame Honor Stephanie Alexander-Harrington, Steadholder Harrington, Duchess Harrington, Countess White Haven. Her claim to "Countess White Haven" is unclear but arguable, since she is Earl White Haven's second wife (a case of polygamy), but in any event is not held in her own right. Legally, Steadholder Harrington, Duchess Harrington, and the Admirals Harrington are different entities inhabiting the same body. With the acquiescence of the Manticoran Foreign Office and the backing of the Queen, Steadholder Harrington's Grayson armsmen (personal bodyguards) are permitted to accompany her on RMN vessels.
She owns and practices with a replica Colt M1911 .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, a weapon considered to be an anachronistic "hand cannon" by her contemporaries, who prefer pulsers, which fire small-calibre high explosive darts at extremely high velocity using a gravitic propulsion system. She acquired a taste for obsolete handarms from her uncle, Jacques Chou, who is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. His training made her a pistol expert (useful on Sphinx outside its protected areas, given its native predators).
Honor loss her left eye while defending Protector Benjamin Mayhew from an assassination attempt. The eye was replaced with a prosthetic, though on occasion it has been disabled (as when she was captured and transported to Hades). Additionally, some of the nerves on the left side of her face were damaged during the same incident, and were replaced with artificial nerves.
Most of her left arm was lost during the escape from the PNS Tepes and was replaced by a cybernetic arm which, among other interesting features, contains a hidden pulser pistol inside the index finger. Its sight is slaved to her prosthetic eye via a small video camera embedded in the cuticle.
Honor practices a fictional martial art known as coup de vitesse (French for blow of speed). This is a fusion of several western and Oriental martial arts, where emphasis is placed on offense at the expense of defense, resulting in a very brutal and effective style. As of War of Honor, Honor has earned an eighth level black belt. There is only one higher rank. Her proficiency has saved her and others several times.
Honor has become proficient with the Grayson style of swordplay, involving a blade very similar to the katana, which by a quirk of history is used ceremonially by Steadholders and is the center of a martial art on Grayson. The sword style of the Graysons is derived from the film "The Seven Samurai" - presumably the Kurosawa version - the only recording of swordplay that existed on Grayson once their culture had devolved to the point where swords were desired.
An Honor Harrington video game called Honorverse, is proposed to be made in Fall 2008.
Weber chose the character's name so that she had the same initials as "Horatio Hornblower", to whom he foresaw Honor was going to be compared. He says, "There are certainly, clearly, similarities between the two. There are also huge differences. And Honor has never been as neurotic as Hornblower was. Hornblower always carried a massive sense of inferiority around with him. Honor never did." Weber also feels that in the later books in the series, Honor has more in common with Admiral Horatio Nelson than Hornblower.