Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Review: 1635: The Wars for the Rhine

I recently purchased and read the eARC for 1635: The Wars for the Rhine by Anette Pedersen.  This is a a new volume in the already-voluminous 1632 / Ring of Fire series created by Eric Flint.  This book covers the conflicts erupting from attempts by different factions to control the Rhineland.  It focuses primarily on three sets of characters: the Hatzfeldt family, the Hesse-Kassel family, and Katharina Charlotte, widow of Duke Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg.

While we've seen a little of the Hesse-Kessels and of Archbishop Franz von Hatzfeldt and General Melchior von Hatzfeldt, in other novels and short stories, they've seldom received much "screentime" before.  A number of the other characters from previous stories also make appearances, but most are new.  If you're looking for more Mike Stearns, Gretchen Richter, Gustavus Adolphus, John Simpson, etc. this isn't the book for you.  If you'll enjoy a tale of political and dynastic intrigue that sometimes flair into war, intermixed with a little bit of romance, then you may very well enjoy 1635: The Wars for the Rhine.  I certainly did.

The book is well-written, it flows fairly well, and seems not-improbable.  It has very little reliance upon uptimers or technology; unlike some books of the series, it deals primarily with the impacts to the geopolitical situation resulting from the changes that have already occurred.  If not for the changes to the timeline, and some very limited use of radio, the novel would be a work of historical fiction set in the early modern era, rather than alternate history.  If the lack of lots of shiny new technology, or uptimer characters, is a problem for you, again, this is not the book.  I enjoyed it, though.

There are two things I found slightly annoying.  Before I mention them, let me first say that neither of them is enough to make me not recommend this book.  I do recommend it.  The first of those minor annoyances was keeping straight the various movers and shakers, and their relationships with each other.  The Cast of Characters included with the book helps, but I found myself having to flip back to it several times to make sense of things again.  The other annoyance is that this in some ways serves as a sequel to several earlier short stories in the Grantville Gazette and some of the braided story anthologies, and it makes reference to and builds upon events in them, but with little explanation.  This makes it hard for those who've not read the earlier stories, or not read them recently, to understand fully at a few points.  There's just enough context in the novel at those points not to be completely lost, but no more.  Still, despite these annoyances, I heartily enjoyed the novel, and recommend it.

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