Following up after the excellent Reap the Whirlwind, Dayton Ward's plate was quite full - but he more than delivered.
This novel is neatly divided in different plotthreads, so I'm going to comment on those individually:
* Reyes' court-martial
First of all, I appreciated the fact that the trial wasn't about refuting the charges but for Reyes to explain his motivation. From a by the book point of view he's guilty, he willfully disseminated classified information and went against orders. But he's a man of conscience who could no longer stand idly by and watch people get killed because they don't know the truth. Maybe he could have found another way to warn people off, maybe he could have influenced the higher-ups to get off their fat asses and actually do something about the situation in the Taurus Reach. Maybe. We don't know, and Reyes has got to live with his decision. As do the judge and the prosecutor who didn't seem to be too happy with the harshness of the sentence.
I have to admit that up to Reap the Whirlwind Reyes didn't make much of an impression, neither did Desai to be honest. Perhaps that's due to the fact that up until this novel the Vanguard-series has been one event after another. There was no time for contemplation, for second-guessing... and for facing the consequences. Open Secrets offers plenty of time to do just that which I truely enjoy. After all, action is good and well, but I need to know the driving forces behind those events, their motivations, their passions. So it was very good to actually see the relationship between Reyes, Desai and Fisher, to see them come to terms with the trial and the verdict - and Reyes' apparent death. There were quite a few genuine emotions which made this book come alive more than the others before it.
* T'Prynn, Pennington
As with Reyes, T'Prynn only came to life for me when her actions hit her in Reap the Whirlwind and her barriers finally came crumbling down. Before that... well, her actions didn't really speak well of her character, to put it mildly. I guess it will be interesting to see how much the fact that her internal battle with Sten's katra is now over will change her. What's her path going to be from now on?
Getting a glimpse into Vulcan society is always interesting, especially how fractured it is. Having a kind of Amish People splinter group offer the help that no one else could provide was a nice touch. I like the fact that the issue of mind-arts are still largely unexplored. After all, it was but a century earlier that simple mindmelds were forbidden (as evidenced by Enterprise). And since the ritual is about getting a katra out of one's mind - who is to say that it isn't some kind of derivative/precursor of the one that helped guide Spock's katra back into his body at the end of Star Trek III?
Pennington's perhaps a bit the weak spot in this novel because he only serves as identifying point for the audience to who all the obscure Vulcan rituals are explained. Otherwise, his motivation to accompany T'Prynn to Vulcan comes across as a mixture of obsession and infatuation. Except for the one scene where T'Prynn apologises to him, there was no real point to his inclusion in this plotthread - in fact, I'd rather have seen him on Vanguard covering the trial which would have made sense due to his being a reporter after all... I guess Ward was aware of that weakness in his novel. Otherwise he wouldn't have felt the need to fill Pennington's chapters with reiterating again and again that Tim should feel angry at T'Prynn...
* What else is going on?
I really appreciated the fact that Reyes' trial was separated from what happened otherwise on the station. Especially that his replacement Admiral Nogura was portrayed as competent (if so far rather bland) and not as the villain only keen on placing blame on his predecessor was a real joy. Otherwise it would have distracted to much from the story.
And of course, the main story heated up quite a bit. The Klingons are now provoking the Federation whereever possible and are eager to get up to speed on the Shedai-technology. Sometimes this made for a bit of frustrating read because I couldn't help ask myself why all the different factions don't all come together and explore the Shedai united - after all, the threat posed by the Shedai is much bigger than any of the factions can individually dream to counter. But, of course, the desire to have just a little bit of an advantage over your neighbours wins every time... to the detriment of all. Weaving nods to TOS-episodes (such as Balance of Terror with mentions of xenophobia and Enterprise's Terra Prime-movement, Arena or Errand of Mercy) added to the depth of the political conflicts - and planted the seed to Nimbus III and the events of Star Trek V. And General Chang makes his appearance as well - what's his agenda? Is he already working with the Romulans and certain Federation officials? Or is he still loyal to the Klingon empire? And what are his plans with Reyes? I definitely enjoyed that part of the novel very much.
* Where does that leave us?
Open Secrets sets up the stage to the second phase of the Vanguard operation just as much as it puts an end to the first phase with Reyes' trial and subsequent removal from the station and the end of T'Prynn's inner struggle. The Organians might have prevented open war for now, but there are other ways of confrontation. And let's not forget the Shedai and the "voice" that even they are afraid of. The game is certainly on.