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Land of Mist and Snow Mass Market Paperback – November 28, 2006
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About the Author
Debra Doyle has a doctorate in English literature. Together, she and James Macdonald have written numerous sf/f books. They live in Colebrook, New Hampshire.
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In this novel, William R. Sharps is a Philosophiae Doctor of mystical letters. He has found the missing pages of the Grey Book.
Cornelius Vanderbilt is a transportation tycoon. He has financed the researches of Doctor Sharps.
William Walker is a filibuster. He has taken Nicaragua and become President of the country.
John Nevis is a Lieutenant in the US Navy. He was assigned to the War Department after his ship was burned when the Rebels took Norfolk.
Columbia Abrams is the daughter of a high official within the War Department. She is a graduate of the Hadley Female Academy.
In this story, in April, 1861, Sharps reports to Vanderbilt on his efforts to discover the missing pages of the Grey Book and his expedition to the arctic circle. After great effort, he has captured a spirit of the air.
In the summer of 1862, Columbia is invited to a dinner at their rented house in Georgetown with her father, Vanderbilt and Sharps. She has been restless and Sharps wanted to meet her. After the dinner, she is invited to study mystic arts under him.
In June, 1862, the CNS Alecto is completed by William Walker and sets sail from Lake Nicaragua. It travels down the river to the open sea.
In January, 1863, Nevis receives orders assigning him to the USS Nicodemus as head of the gunnery department. He is also ordered to escort a dozen guns to the ship. He passes his current tasks on to another and prepares to leave.
He first travels to the Arsenal at Albany. He inspects the brass ten-inch Rodman guns and the brass ammunition. Then he accompanies the guns down the river to the Manhattan Navy Yard.
There the guns and ammunition are loaded on the brig USS Triumph. Next morning, the brig sails with the tide. Nevis is on his way to the Thule Experimental Shipyard.
In March, 1863, the Nicodemus is freed from a pool amidst the ice and travels along the coastline toward the harbor. Nevis takes the train and the Nicodemus paces the speeding locomotive. Nevis has orders to greet Columbia at the docks and guard her virtue.
Columbia had packed for a cold clime before sailing from New York. She was ushered onboard the Triumph and taken to the Thule Shipyard. There she is met by Nevis.
Nevis accompanies Columbia on a boat to the Nicodemus. She takes an ember with her and lights the fires on the ship after coming aboard. Then she retires to her cabin.
The Nicodemus sails away from the harbor for sea trials, but events leave no time for testing. They go looking for Rebel blockage runners. Soon they fight their first battle.
Meanwhile, a French captain reports observation of a mysterious ship at sea. The ship was traveling without sails or the sound of engines. The Alecto crossed their bow at high speed and was followed by a dozen or more sharks.
This tale follows two ships powered by mystic beings. The Nicodemus was built by the US Navy, but the Alecto is a Confederate ship. The two ships are destined for battle on the high seas.
Both ships are sensitive to iron. With a single exception, everything aboard each ship has to be nonferric. The Nicodemus doesn't even have a compass.
This story doesn't explain the existence of magic that underlies the plot. The next novel in this universe is Lincoln's Sword.
Recommended for Doyle & MacDonald fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of elemental magic, sea battles, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin
The story begins as Lieutenant Nevis receives word he's getting the detachment of his dreams, the opportunity to leave his desk job at the War Department on Whitehall Street in New York to finally join the fight in the sailing Navy. His first assignment: to inspect and take possession of a dozen ten inch Rodman guns at the Naval Arsenal in Watervliet.
Your first inkling of the story's supernatural slant comes at the end of the first chapter, when Nevis learns the guns and cannon balls are made of pure virgin brass, and that they are destined for an experimental ship of war being constructed on the ice at Thule. For me, that was the hook. The vessel was being built on the ice and not a railway at a shipyard because, for reasons that become clear later on, the ship could not come in contact with land.
Doyle and Macdonald have constructed a logical and very entertaining supernatural story pitting good against evil, weaving in various aspects of reality and staying faithful to the prose and authenticity of the era. I was particularly impressed with their nautical detail and accuracy.
The story is told in log book or diary form, with first person entries from the various characters. If the overall effort has any fault, it lies here, as the entries don't really allow for much individuation of character. This can be a huge stumbling block for avid readers of contemporary fiction, i.e. people who prefer third person narratives and/or a more dialog driven format.
Perhaps the above is a kind way of saying the story lacked strong characterization. And maybe it does. Either way, I wasn't deterred from having a good time. Kudos to the authors for keeping me entertained throughout. And with a story that takes place almost entirely at sea. Trust me, one misstep in the nautical accuracy department and I would have tossed the book in the garage. (I would have said "overboard" but International Discharge of Waste and Dunnage laws prohibit that sort of irresponsible activity.)
The ship is faster than any ship has a right to be and is soon plowing the ocean. But the crew learns of another ship like theirs. Similar but dark in nature. A dangerous ship operated by the enemy. One that requires sacrifice. The ship must be stopped and a chase ensues. As the black ship is chased we learn more about the Nicodemus and its workings. Eventually the final confrontation is engaged and the story concludes nicely.
The world of magic is an interesting one. The non-magic history is pretty good and magic's effect on it is believable. But don't believe that this is a Civil War story. It starts out as one but becomes more like MOBY DICK as the chase goes on and on and we see nothing of the war. The only real problem was a detail of the black ship. We are told it needs more sacrifices the further it gets from its point of creation. But then we watch it travel thousands of miles without ant apparent escalation. Other than that, this is an interesting story that delves into the differences between good and evil and where the two sometimes overlap. Check it out.
Most recent customer reviews
Got this from a friend because the cover really hooked me and it seemed to have an intriguing premise.Read more