Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: A Carpathian Campaign

Today I purchased and read A Carpathian Campaign, a novel by Alma T. C. Boykin.  The novel is an alternate history with some science fictional / fantastic elements.  The world of A Carpathian Campaign is recognizably similar to ours on the surface, but there are some clear differences that extend back in time, and others that take place as we watch: battles gone differently, borders subtly shifted, personnel changed.

It is set in the early 20th century, and covers the early years of an alternate Great War (World War One). The protagonist and main view point character is István Eszterházy, a young Hungarian aristocrat serving in the army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  As events are largely seen through his eyes, the focus is most often on immediate and familial concerns, though the big picture and grand strategy do play a part in his thoughts.  He is also a largely understandable character, his concerns and perspective easy to related to - even for those of use who aren't HalfDragon Hungarian aristocrats of a century ago.

I've only read a few books on the WWI Eastern front and its aftermath.  This novel fits well with the ambiance depicted in such books.  The battle fronts tended to be far more fluid than on the Western front, with massive advances and retreats common.  Victories and defeats of massive scope and scale could and did occur.  Sieges tended to be limited to fortresses and strategic terrain, not continent-length lines.  All of that is shown fairly well in A Carpathian Campaign.

The novel is set in the same universe as Boykin's A Cat Among Dragons series, but requires no knowledge of those stories.  This novel stands well on its own.  (Actually, it stands even better with a separate map so its clear when the story is in the titular Carpathian mountains, but that's a minor nit - and there's a map in the book, but its inconvenient to reference while reading.)

I'd definitely recommend this book.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.   It does leave a lot of open questions. When it ends István Eszterházy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire alike are facing a uncertain future. Dragons, Houses, Gifts, and the Powers are not fully explained.  That's fine for the first volume in a series, of course, and hopefully more volumes will follow that continue the story and help explore some of these topics further.

It made a nice treat on my first day back, recovering from the return trip after visiting family over the Christmas holiday.  I hope everybody reading this had a splendid Christmas, Chanukah, or even Festivus.  I managed to read a few books over the holiday time so expect a few more book reviews in the near future.

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