If empathic alien cats, space navies, and starships going broadsides with one another sounds like a good time, check out the 1993 science fiction novel On Basilisk Station by David Weber. This is the first of his Honor Harrington series, which has been recommended to me several times and I’ve just now read the first book.
The title character starts off as an up and coming officer in the Manticoran Navy and is assigned the impossible task of managing a busy planetary system with only a single destroyer. Here she must deal with uppity merchants, possibly hostile natives, and her own Navy’s politics and subterfuges. She also must contend with her own crew getting used to her forward thinking while digesting the fact that they’ve been assigned to a backwater detail with no support. Her XO in particular has issues with her, having been passed up for a promotion. This all lays the groundwork for plenty of drama and action.
The main character is the star of the story, never becoming eclipsed by the supporting roles. Her situation as the challenged but never frustrated captain of her ship keeps the reader invested. Honor’s initial unexpected success in a fleet exercise follows her to her new assignment where it becomes apparent that someone in the navy doesn’t like her.
About the only parts that distracted were each character having shared thoughts with the reader. We also read about meticulous descriptions of most characters’ eye movements, intentions, and things they almost do. This becomes part of the background as the stronger narrative points dominate. I was happy that the telepathic cat that is Honor’s companion never amounts to much more than a side character that plays little into the plot.
Weber’s universe has spaceships chasing each other about, with sufficient yet not overburdening explanations of how it all works. The end result is a fun story that makes this a strong entry in military science fiction. I look forward to checking out the rest of the series.