From Publishers Weekly
Turtledove concludes his six-volume magical fantasy alternative history of WWII (Into the Darkness, etc.) with this hefty multifaceted account of the price of winning and the cost of losing. Leaping between vignette-sized glimpses told through each of 16 "viewpoint characters" from different races and kingdoms, this final installment of the Derlavaian world war begins with climactic battles on several fronts, examines the bitter fruit of the Algarvians' genocidal policies against the Kaunians, traces the development and first use of uncanny new magical weapons of mass destruction and sows the seeds for a new conflict between Unkerlant and its former allies. The author's ability to convey complex abstract issues through strong characterizations sweeps this complicated narrative along with a minimum of stereotypes, and he succeeds especially well at portraying inner conflicts caused by hate and pride. As the war grinds to a halt and various story lines start to converge, individual characters' fates gain urgency. Can Vanai, a Kaunian woman masquerading as a Forthwegian, trust her neighbors and safely reveal herself and her child? Can Unkerlanter Marshal Rathar trust his paranoid kin Swemmel not to strike out at the loyal Rathar as a possible rival? By personalizing the frightful tragedies of war, Turtledove makes the big bang of the war's ultimate weapon far less affecting than the whimpers of its many victims.
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This concludes Turtledove's formidable fantasy interpretation of World War II, which incorporates much the same mixture, or jumble, of old and new institutions, dilemmas, technologies, and losers and winners that historians have described in our-world reports on the conflict (in the Turtledove continuum, of course, some technologies are magics). Both Turtledove's audiences--WWII buffs and followers of the saga's characters--will be pleased, but make no mistake, this is character-centered alternate history. Ealstan the Kaunian survivor is lucky enough to have most of his family to return to as well as to have survived several extra hazards, and that will constitute the main catharsis for most faithful readers. In Zuwayza, indefatigable foreign minister Hajjaj leaves office clothed in dignity, if nothing else. The theoretical sorcerers of Kuusamo and Lagoas manage various resolutions (some joyous, some otherwise) to their personal and ethical dilemmas, but after their sorcerous Manhattan Project works horribly well on Gyongos, they are targeted by Unkerlanter espionage. Some characters end up maimed, some married, some deceased, but altogether, Turtledove skillfully handles the fates of a cast in whose ranks many readers have found friends. A host of further possibilities remains for this cast, although Turtledove's announced next book is another segment of the time-line first cast by the alternate post-Civil War yarn How Few Remain
(1997). Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved