‘Conflagration’ is the sequel to ‘Kindling’ which’ unfortunately’ I have not read. I say ‘unfortunate’ as ‘Conflagration’ is a cracking read and perhaps I might have got even more from it had I read the first book. However, don’t let that put you off this book as it more than stands on its own with background detail provided as and when they are needed.
Imagine a world at about the time of the Great War in 1914, but it is a very different world to that we know today. Most of Europe has been conquered by the Mosul Empire and ruled by the cruel Hassan IX aided by the sorcerer Quadaron-Ahrach and his sister Jeakqual-Ahrach. Only the Norse Alliance of Britain and Scandinavia with the Americas Kingdom of Albany remain free to oppose the barbaric horde. Already, the Mosul Empire has over-run Virginia Freestate and the Republic of the Carolinas. What the Mosul lack in technical expertise, they make up with sheer numbers and the Dark Things let loose by the sorcerers.
The Norse Alliance are the technical super-power in this alternative history with the American kingdoms, free-states and republics not far behind. In their technical progress, they have shunned the dark arts and have little defence from the Mosul practitioners except for The Four. Two young men and two young women from widely different backgrounds but all with startlingly good otherworldly powers come together in Albany to oppose the Mosul invaders. Marching with the Albany army, they head south to confront the Mosul at what will become known as the battle of Newbury Vale.
The interaction of the Four are interesting as they experience all the emotions four people under life-threatening conditions and extreme stress can experience. We have Argo who likes his drink and is from the backwoods contrasting nicely with Cordelia, the spoiled aristocratic lady. Jasmine was a slave concubine for the Mosul before being rescued, while Raphael was a Mosul conscript before he deserted and swapped sides. I’m not totally convinced that their otherworldly adviser, Yancey Slide, works as a character though. You just don’t learn enough about him. Where things get really interesting is the Four’s trip to Britain accompanying Albany Prime Minister Jack Kennedy. Yes, you read that right, the author cleverly weaves into the plot well-known figures of this reality into the alternative history, although timelines are not preserved. Keep an eye out for Sir Richard Branson popping up!
I think it’s this cleaver take on recent history, which makes the plot so good. The characters are believable if over-sexed and the whole plot builds to a satisfying battle at the end. While I don’t hesitate to recommend the book, I do feel obliged to point out something I just noticed, the catalogue information says it’s Youth Fiction! That shouldn’t put you off the book though as it’s an entertaining tale.
(pub: TOR/Forge. 396 page small hardback. Price: $27.95 (US), $37.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-765-31363-4)
check out website: www.tor-forge.com