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Thessalonica (Baen Fantasy) Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Hugo nominee Turtledove (Prince of the North) blends religion, history and fantasy in this adventurous tale told from the point of view of George, a simple shoemaker who lives in Thessalonica in the 7th century A.D. George is a Christian, as are most of the city's residents, but remnants of the old pagan religion and its creatures are known to still exist in the hills. George happens upon a satyr, who warns him of a new danger approaching. The danger turns out to be the invading Avars and Slavs, who have at their command supernatural wolves and bats. Within days the city is surrounded, and though the strength of their Christian God enables the population to keep the warriors at bay, George realizes they may need help to defeat their enemy. With the help of the pious Priest Luke, George convinces the satyrs and centaurs to come to the aide of Thessalonica. Fans of historical fantasy will relish Turtledove's offering and its unlikely hero.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Set in a period and place not usually covered by fantasy or alt-history writers, George, his friend Father Luke and the other citizens in their ancient hometown struggle for faith and direction in a Roman Empire still intact, deal with the waning power and influence of the indigenous pagan immortal creatures and confront the downright nasty demonic conjuring unleashed by Slavic invaders. I would have liked to see more detail of the Roman Empire alt-history timeline and point-of-departure events, but that wasn't the emphasis of this plot.
I would recommend the book to almost any sci-fi/fantasy reader. Despite the blatantly adult descriptions of certain situations, this story could be a great CG movie. It was also nice to see a plot involving spiritual power where Christians weren't portrayed as weak or indifferent to impending evil.
In summary, Bilbo Baggins the shoemaker and his friends John Winger, Dewey and Sergeant Hulka from Stripes, are being attacked by a bunch of magically assisted Slavs and Avars, they are protected by the very powerful Christian/Jewish God, and remaining Greek pagan minor deities.
I kid you not, its a great cross genre mashup (note, Bilbo and the cast from stripes don't actually appear) with some pretty hilarious (semi dirty) jokes, and interesting insight into human belief.
Worth getting, Not for kids.
Turtledove, who has a PhD in Byzantine history, accurately portrays Christian life in the Roman Empire during the 7th century AD. Details buffs such as myself will note that from time to time he makes glaring errors such as messing up the "Trisagion prayer", but if you are not an Eastern Christian this won't bother you a bit. Also, the bishop's prayers are borderline silly at times.
One other negative aspect of the book is Turtledove's obsession with describing the status of the satyrs' sexual organs (in mythology these animals are oversexed, and Turtledove uses vivid descriptions of the satyr's erectile state to determine his mood, which gets annoying.)
The book's action moves quickly, and the author incorporates the main character George's home life quite well into the thread of the action.
I loved this book and would recommend it to those who have an interest in the genre of historical fantasy.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed it enough to read it quickly and then even report on it.
Now I'm not saying the book isn't enjoyable because it is but there is nothing that you read here that can't be read in any other(much better) Harry Turtledove book
However there was one part I just loved and that is why this book gets 4 stars instead of 3. I am refering to the very funny conflict resolution at the end of the story. Great way to handle that little problem!