Trying to recall a MechWarrior novel probably from the 80s or 90s.

Young hotshot MechWarrior is in training to be come a Mech Pilot to fight with his Clan. (I think he was from a prestigious family and wanted to "prove" he was the best). If I recall correctly he was already doing very well certainly one of the top trainees of his class.

During final exam mech battle (like 4 trainees in mechs vs 6 teachers in mechs) he develops a plan to kill 3 of the enemy mechs. The trainees must kill 1 to graduate, 2 to graduate at a higher rank, but, if you can kill 3, you get a very high rank. (Something like kill 1 your rank 1, kill 2 your rank 3, kill 3 your rank 6. Out of ranks like 1 to 10) However, if your mech is killed, you fail.

He pilots a mech he has chosen specifically to aid him in his plan. He does something like a Death From Above Jump to get to the enemy line and knock out 1 of the mech (landing on it and knocking it out, or behind it so he can do an instant kill head shot), he also lands so he is ready to target the mech next to it, before it can react and turn to target him. Knocking it out for his second kill.

Meanwhile his 3 team mates have been targeting the other mechs and knocked out a couple of them. Typically the trainees kill an enemy mech then withdraw so they cant be killed. 2 of them do and withdraw, but 1 of them presses on trying for a second kill. Maybe they get it by stealing the protagonist 3rd kill, by getting the final kill shot, I cant remember)

So the protagonist, who's mech has been getting damaged pretty good but still able to fight press on trying to get the last enemy mech. BUT just as he is about to defeat the last mech, his team mate who has 2 kills, targets him and knocks him out.

His team mate graduates with 3 kills, and he fails cause his mech was knocked out. He now becomes an Outcast, shunned by his family and cant fight with his Clan.

Because he jumped from his battle line to the enemy line to fight them up close, he became a rogue, able to be targeted by either side. While usually other trainees wont target the rogue, (They are focused on kill 1 and withdraw) targeting the rogue is allowed.

IF I remember right this happens in the beginning of the book. (first 1/4 or 1/3rd) and the rest of the book is as he goes and finds a mercenary mech group to fight with and rises in the ranks of that group. It might have been part of a Trilogy where he battles his way up to rejoin his Clan by proving himself.

  • sarna.net/wiki/Final_Exam might match, but it's a short story, not a novel.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 1, 2020 at 3:33
  • Nope it was definitely a novel and not a short story. I only read a few BattleTech/MechWarrior novels (4-5 at most) and never read any short stories or Anthologies. Also in the book, he was not fighting against a computer simulation. He was fighting actually Opponents in real mechs. (but simulated weapons)
    – NJohnny
    Dec 1, 2020 at 3:42

1 Answer 1


Way of the Clans, by Robert Thurston, first book in the Legend of the Jade Phoenix trilogy.

I started Googling BattleTech/MechWarrior book covers until I found one I remembered which turned out to be the 3rd book in the trilogy.

From https://www.sarna.net/wiki/Way_of_the_Clans

He utilizes a bold tactic where he attacks the opponents of his fellow recruits, changing the trial to a free for all melee according to the trial rules. Figuring that with his unusual behavior, he can confuse his opponents and has a chance for three kills, he does not take into account that he becomes a valid target for his fellow recruits too. His tactic almost succeeding, he is put down by Marthe moments before he can finalize his first kill. She attacks Aidan's 'Mech from behind for the opportunity to join the ranks as a star commander.

I could have sworn he had already killed a couple mechs when he was defeated, but the quote above says he had not even made 1 kill when he was defeated. In addition there was no need to withdraw. Losing your mech after a kill did not cause you to fail,

  • Was able to get ahold of a copy of the book, and confirmed it is the book I was looking for although I did mis-remember a few details. The Test does take place as described in the quote.
    – NJohnny
    Dec 2, 2020 at 5:50

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