Monday, August 13, 2007

Emperor - Stephen Baxter

Time’s Tapestry, Book One
Stephen Baxter

Alternate History

In Britannia in 4 BC, nearly fifty years after the war against Cesar, Cunovic waits anxiously for the birth of his nephew. Waiting with him, the child’s father and great-grandfather, Nectovelin, a warrior who fought against Rome. The birth was difficult, and, at the end, the mother, a simple girl who had never ventured outside her own village, began to babble in Latin, a language of which she could have no knowledge. Cunovic, a traveling trader, understands her words and feels he should record them for posterity. Looking back, Cunovic would pinpoint that night as the time that time’s tapestry began to unravel.

Jumping forward to 43AD, that nephew is now a chieftain, and he and his people are faced with an ever-changing political situation and the very real possibility of another Roman invasion. To some, the prophecy speaks of freedom; to others it speaks of sorrow; some are disinclined to believe it at all. When the inevitable Roman invasion comes, his cousin Agrippina uses what has come to be known as the Prophecy of Nectovelin to divert the Emperor Claudius. But Claudius won’t be Emperor forever.

Readers who enjoy the alternate history genre will be happy to find this series. My only complaint is that I wish each section had been expanded. The characters are skillfully drawn, but since the story takes place over centuries, each set of characters is presented for a relatively short time. This is a minor quibble, however, since the intent is clearly to show the long-range scope of the prophecy, and the various interpretations by different family members, over a long period. The author skillfully evokes each time period through use of historical and political details, making each segment unique.

For those who want the details, like me, the author presents, at the beginning, a map of the ancient region, a timeline of major events, and a list of place names, both ancient and current. This makes it a simple matter for any reader to follow historical events. Since the conclusion takes place in 418 AD, the author has left himself plenty of room for future volumes.

Rating: 8
January 2007
ISBN# 978-0-441-01466-8 (hardcover)


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