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1635: Papal Stakes (Ring of Fire) Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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About the Author
Charles E. Gannon is a breakthrough rising star in science fiction with a multiple short story and novella publications in Baen anthologies, Man-Kzin Wars XIII, Analog, and elsewhere. Gannon is coauthor with Steve White of Extremis, the latest entry in the legendary Starfire series created by David Weber. His most recent novel is 1635: The Papal Stakes cowritten with alternate history master, Eric Flint. A multiple Fulbright scholar, Gannon is Distinguished Professor of American Literature at St. Bonaventure University.
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In the previous volume, Sharon and Ruy gained first hand experience with the activities of Quevedo and Sharon got to practice some street medicine when a militia unit attacked a group of demonstrators. After the incident, Sharon and Ruy retired to Frank's Place for drinks and less bloody clothes.
Cardinal Antonio the Younger attended a conference with his uncle, Pope Urban VIII, and Father-General Vitelleshi of the Society of Jesus to discuss the actions of Borja and Quevedo. They decided that Borja cannot have orders to assassinate the Pope or to make him an Anti-Pope. Probably Philip IV was only trying to make the Pope ineffectual -- a lame duck -- during the remainder of his Papacy.
In this novel, Frank Stone is Tom's son and is married to Giovanna. He is now a captive of Cardinal Borja.
Giovanna Marcoli is a Venetian girl, but is now married to Frank and being held captive by the Spanish.
Tom Stone is a Grantville native who came through the Ring of Fire. He is now the United States of Europe ambassador to Venice.
Sharon Nichols is the daughter of James Nichols and a medical doctor. She is now the USE ambassador to Rome and the Vatican.
Ruy Sachesz de Casador y Ortiz is a Catalan career soldier. He is now married to Sharon.
Tom Simpson is the son Of John and Mary Simpson and married to Rita. He is an artillery officer in the USE army stationed at the USE embassy in Rome.
Melissa Mailey is a spinster school teacher who now advises the USE government. She was in Rome when Cardinal Borja attacked the embassy.
Harry Lefferts was a miner in Grantville. Now he is chief of the Wrecking Crew.
Thomas North is a British mercenary in the Hibernian Battalion. He is a Colonel and partner in the battalion.
Urban VIII -- AKA Maffeo Barberini -- is the Pope of the Church. He has left Rome after being rescued from prison. Cardinal Borja is still shifting the remains of his prison searching for his body.
Vitelleshi is Father-General of the Society of Jesus. He has escaped from Rome with the Pope.
Larry Mazzare was a village priest in Grantville. Now he is a Cardinal of the Church and the Protector of Grantville.
Arcangelo Severi is a factor for the Cavriani family in Venice. Arco is acting as a guide to Tom Simpson and his party.
Borja y Velasco is a Spaniard and Cardinal of the Church. He has taken the over the Vatican in a coup.
Antonio Barberini the Younger is a nephew of Urban VIII and a Cardinal of the Church.
Miro Estuban is a Jew posing as a Christian. He has started an airship business in Grantville in partnership with Virgilio Franchetti.
In this story, Sharon and her party are staying in an abandoned villa outside Padua. Her guests include the Pope, his nephew, and the Jesuit father=general. She is trying to contact Colonel North and the group at Chiavenna, but is having severe radio problems.
Tom Simpson, Rita, Melissa, James, and Arco are eating at a rustic inn in Chiavenna. Tom wants to try the soup, but Melissa argues against ordering it. Tom goes ahead anyway.
While he is eating the soup, a tattered friar enters the front door and
comes over to their table. The friar is really a Cardinal for whom they have been waiting. Shortly thereafter, another man enters and sits at a nearby table.
The new man seems to be listening to their conversation, so James talks to the others in pig-latin. They assume that the new man had been following the friar and has friends outside. Tom takes out the new man and Melissa opens the door.
Four thugs are waiting outside, so Tom double taps the first three. James takes out the fourth man. Then they all run for their cabin.
Tom tells their radio operator to take down the antenna and dump the batteries in the river. Their pursuers start shooting at them and the radio operator is killed. The group runs for the ford.
Meanwhile, Colonel North is deploying his two squads upstream from the ford. Franchetti lands the blimp in a nearby pasture and drops off Harry and the Wrecking Crew. Tom passes North on his way to the blimp.
The Spanish troops in pursuit run into an ambush and few survive. The friar is taken off in the blimp. One of North's squad makes an obvious trail for the Spanish follower to find.
This tale takes Harry to Rome to recover Frank and Giovanna. Miro has overall command of the operation, but lets Frank plan the extraction. Unknown to the USE group, Cardinal Borja has a new advisor on covert operations.
Tom Stone involves himself in the rescue. The next installment in this sequence has not yet been announced on Amazon. Several projects are in progress.
Highly recommended for Flint & Gannon fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of covert operations, armed conflict, and theological arguments. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin
That said, the tale begins in 1635 Rome with Frank Stone and his pregnant wife Giovanna as captives of the false Pope and wannabee, Cardinal Borja of Spain. The real Pope Urban VIII is a fugitive from Borja's assassins and is under the protection of USE Ambassadress Sharon Nichols and her worthy, wily husband Ruy Sanchez.
The USE has dispatched it's famous Wrecking Crew, directed and commanded by Harry Lefferts. Use is being made of blimp/dirigible air transportation for these worthies to the wrecking grounds in Italy.
Pope Urban is undecided on his course of actions, and sanctuary in Grantville is only one of them; staying put is the same as certain death, however.
Cardinal Lawrence Mazzare has a prominent role to play in Urban's decision, as does reknowned theologian Father Luke Wadding of the Franciscan Order.
There are villians almost too numerous to mention, and all of these components come together in a pretty well executed series of events in the ensuing tale as it unfolds. Fortunately for the reader, authors Flint and Ganon have thoughfully provided a cast of characters appendix at the end of the novel!
I feel strongly against revealing too much of the action and subsequent outcomes, so I instead recommend the book for a first-hand reading experience. I waited several days for my opinion to solidify regarding my evaluation before writing this review. I'm giving it 5 stars on several levels: intrigue, action, and adventure. The religious debates within may take some getting used-to, but overall, a great effort by the authors.
If your fans of the wrecking crew don't read this. I found it impossible that a spy could have predicted their moves and killed members of the wrecking crew. There is NO WAY. that the spanish would have had a competent spy master none. I stopped reading after that because frankly that part was garbage. There is no way that a good spy would have worked for a backwards country like Spain or a pope like Borja I had to stop reading because of how improbable that was and the deaths of two characters I liked. It was already improbable enough that a spanish moron would have been able to take Rome in the previous book this just makes the bad guys seem too competent.