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The Breath of God (Tom Doherty Associates Books) Hardcover – December 23, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The second Opening of the World fantasy novel (after 2007's The Gap) can easily be enjoyed on its own terms. The rise of the Rulers, a powerful group who ride mammoths to war and wield potent magic powers, poses a major threat to the Raumsdalian Empire. Count Hamnet Thyssen, a master warrior, rallies a ragtag mix of magicians, shamans and soldiers against the Rulers, who deal them a crushing defeat. The survivors make a perilous escape over an enormous glacier, where they encounter a band of cannibals and acquire a new shaman, the lovely and skilled Marcovefa. Sparks fly between her and Hamnet as the Rulers threaten further battle. While the prolific Turtledove may be best known for his alternate history works, he demonstrates his versatility and considerable imagination in this fast-paced military fantasy. (Dec.)
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For centuries the Raumsdalian Empire was cut off from the north by great glaciers. Of the region’s people, only the nomadic Bizagots were in the empire’s ken. But melting has opened a gap. Count Hamnet Thyssen, scouting for the legendary Golden Shrine, has found a people calling themselves the Rulers, who regard all other peoples as herd animals. Unfortunately, they are skilled warriors who know magic that neither Bizagot shamans nor imperial wizards can counter. The Rulers have been breaking Bizagot tribes, leaving survivors scattered and hungry. Hamnet tries to get the survivors to work together, which proves nearly impossible, and to learn as much as he can about the Rulers’ magic. He doesn’t get much assistance from his own people, to whom everything beyond the glaciers is so much legendry. The tale’s copious action includes some fascinating sorcerous battles, and Turtledove’s development of Hamnet is captivating. The count, introduced in Beyond the Gap (2007), is a man facing myths become reality and trouble that for now he must deal with virtually alone. Terrific adventure. --Frieda Murray
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On the way North, his group were attacked several times by the Ruler shamans. Then they found that the Rulers have invaded the Clan range. The Bizogots raided the invaders and captured some prisoners, but were still pushed off their land.
In this novel, Count Hamnet Thyssen is a Raumsdalian nobleman. He has riden beyond the Gap with Bizogot clansfolk to search for the Golden Shrine, but instead found the Rulers, nomadic people who herd people as well as animals. Now he is trying to unite the Bizogot clans to fight against a Rulers invasion.
Ulric Skakki is an adventurer. He had been through the Gap and seen the Rulers before any other Raumsdalian. Then he went back with Hamnet's expedition. He seems to know almost everything about the Bizogot plains.
Audun Gilli is a Raumsdalian wizard. He has been exchanging magical expertise with Liv.
Trasamund is the jarl of the Three Tusk Clan, or what remains of it. He is an inveterate optimist about fighting the Rulers. His clan has hurt the enemy, but sustained great casualties in doing so.
Liv is the shaman of the Three Tusk Clan. She is barely able to counter the magic of the Ruler shamans, but she is always willing to try again. She is Hamnet's lover.
In this story, Hamnet, his friends and the surviving Three Tusk clansfolk flee from the invading Rulers. Hamnet intends to return to the Raumsdalian Empire to warn them again about the Ruler invasion, but their pursuers catch up with them and cut off the way south. So Hamnet leads the group up an avalanche spill onto the glacier.
The glacier is inhabited with people much like the Bizogots, but they speak an older form of the language. Ulric recognizes their language and is able to speak some phrases. Still, the men take the party captive and lead them across the ice.
When another larger group approaches, Hamnet has Ulric tell their captors that they will fight with them if their weapons are returned. Their leader agrees and Trasamund leads the charge. The other group has a shaman, but Liv and Audun are able to counter his spells. Hamnet kills the enemy shaman and Trasamund enjoys a few moments of brisk exercise, killing off his enemies.
After the other group is defeated, the first group starts gathering loot. The leader offers Hamnet the better parts of the shaman's body. The glacier dwellers are cannibals! Naturally, Hamnet politely refuses the offer.
Their new friends lead them across the glacier to a place where green plants are growing. There they meet Marcovefa, the shaman of this tribe. Liv and Audun start exchanging magic spells with the shaman. Ulric becomes their interpreter, much to his despair.
This tale gives Hamnet another chance to fight the Rulers. He starts out fine, but the chances of war go against him again. He begins to consider other tactics.
This story is the second volume in the series. The sequel is The Golden Shrine. Read and enjoy!
Recommended for Turtledove fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of ice age adventures, political intrigue, and sexual relationships.
-Arthur W. Jordin
The Breath of God is a wind that flows from the great glacier that - up to now, divided the world. Now there is a crack, and the protagonists are going exploring to see what's there. Turtledove as usual paints a great picture of what might have been, and this one is very plausible. The book is good enough that I immediately bought and read the second book in the series. Now, please hurry up with book three.
Count Thyssen along with Northern Bizogot clan jarl Trasamund led an expedition beyond the glacier to explore the land the glacier and find the mythical Golden Shrine but soon return to the capital of Nidaris to rally the Raumsdalian forces against the invincible Rulers. Two battles result in Rulers slaughtering the opposition. Hamnet leads their withdrawal to fight another day as this battle is lost; the fleeing Raumsdalian army meets a new shaman Marcovefa who joins their side.
The second Opening of the World thriller is a terrific novel that switches gear from the first tale, which was more of an exploration expedition, to a great military fantasy. The story line is fast-paced as the heroes flee after losing the battle to the more powerful Rulers. The romance between Marcovefa and Hamnet provides a humanizing touch especially since he has been burned by women starting with his cheating ex-wife and has doubts about a relationship that when it goes wrong could have secondary consequences on the empire and its people. Fans will relish Harry Turtledove's superb military fantasy.
"The Breath of God," though, is volume two (of who knows how many; "Beyond the Gap" was the first) about a pre-industrial world in the grip of global warming that has melted a glacier. That has allowed a somewhat more advanced culture to invade the less-advanced one, and Count Hamnet Thyssen is on the front lines for the underdogs. He's a tough warrior, older than most protagonists, with some relationship issues you wouldn't expect in this kind of book. Still, Turtledove's professionalism drives the narrative right along - and leaves the reader ready for volume three.
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