"Terrible Swift Sword" represents the low point of the 35th Maine's war against the giant alien nomads who have made humans their "cattle". The technology advantage is not as clear as it had been at first. Col. Keane, exhausted and lamenting the losses incurred in a hopeless defense against the Merki horde, experiences the depths of self-doubt. There are no grand victories in sight in a struggle that seems to have no end.
On the other side, however, there are also doubts, and the Merki triumphs are not all that Jubadi expected. There are troubling forecasts from his son's shield-bearer.
As usual, the battles are immense and brutal, contrasting with the smaller engagements that can now take place in the air. They place a new strain on the already uneasy alliance between Rus and Roum that IMHO Mr. Forstchen brushes over too lightly. In a long war, there must be times that try the fiber of even the sturdiest people; "TSS" is a fine depiction of such a time, but leaves little for the reader to cheer.