Sunday, October 28, 2012

At The Queen's Command by Michael Stackpole

Put your literary boots on.  Michael Stackpole is ready to take readers on an amazing journey.  Imagine a retelling of the settling of the North American continent by the British, jerked slightly askew.  Yes, there are touchpoints that the reader will recognize from their history classes, but Stackpole's version is infinitely more entertaining.

Captain Owen Strake has come to the Mysterian colony to make his mark.  Shunned by Norillian society and his extended family due to a Mysterian birth father, he has little chance to rise in traditional ways.  A successful mission will secure enough of a future that he can retire with his wife to the countryside and move away from the artificial society he chafes under.  He has been charged with surveying the uncharted lands of the Queen's colony, Mystria, and giving a report of any possible enemies such as rival Tharyngians and the Twilight People who were the original inhabitants of the land. 

When he arrives, he realises that this land is nothing like anything he has seen.  There are new animals, and magick is not something that is feared and scorned as it is at home.  As an individual who has some magick ability, this is a new idea, that his abilities could be honored rather than feared.  The people are warmer and more welcoming to strangers, and as he becomes more acclimated, he realises that this land suits him much better; a land where a man is evaluated for his character rather than his wealth or position.

But all is not well.  There is an undercurrent of unrest, as the plans of the Tharyngians to attack Mysteria and gain control of all the land become clearer.  There are those who wish for Myteria to break free of the Queen's control.  As Owen works on the surveying, he discovers that a Tharyngian commander he had faced on the battlefields of Europe has taken command here.  He is determined to rule the entire land, by force if he must.  He has built a huge fort that is manned by creatures raised from the dead by sorcery, along with an overwhelming force of highly trained soldiers used to winning every battle. 

Owen, along with those who love Mysteria, are determined to defeat the Tharyngians for the Queen.  There is Nathaniel Woods, a huntsman and guide, highly skilled in the survival skills of this new land.  Kamiskwa is one of the Native people, and he and Nathaniel open this society to Owen.  There is Prince Vlad, the Queen's nephew.  Vlad is a scientist first and foremost, and he loves this new land that he has been given to rule.  Together these men create a ragtag army of colonists who will stop at nothing to win their freedom to live as they like.

This book is highly recommended.  The minute I finished the last page, I rushed online to buy the second volume.  There is humor, magic, strange rituals.  The book is a rousing history with battles and the story of a land forming a society, but then thrown in are items such as men raised from the dead, giant wurms (wingless dragons), who fight along with their owners, guns that are fired by men with their fingers serving as the firing power to send bullets on their way.  There is intrigue, strategy and military battles.  This is a rousing history that is both whimsical and rousing and is recommended for a wide genre of readers.  Those who love history will enjoy this twist on reality.  Those who like fantasy will also find it an excellent read. 

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