On November 8, 1861, a U.S. navy warship stopped a British packet and seized two Confederate emissaries on their way to England to seek backing for their cause. England responded with rage, calling for a war of vengeance. The looming crisis was defused by the peace-minded Prince Albert. But imagine how Albert's absence during this critical moment might have changed everything. For lacking Albert's calm voice of reason, Britain now seizes the opportunity to attack and conquer a crippled, war-torn America.
Ulysses S. Grant is poised for an attack that could smash open the South's defenses. In Washington, Abraham Lincoln sees a first glimmer of hope that this bloody war might soon end. But then disaster strikes: English troops have invaded from Canada. With most of the Northern troops withdrawn to fight the new enemy, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his weakened army stand alone against the Confederates. Can a divided, bloodied America defeat England, or will the United States cease to exist for all time?
Admirers of Harrison's West of Eden trilogy or his magisterial Dark Ages collaboration with John Holm won't be pleased by this disappointing novel of an alternate Civil War. Neither will buffs of that conflict or military historians accustomed to work at the level occupied by Harry Turtledove. Harrison's premise is that an actual historical event (the seizure of two Confederate diplomats from the British steamer Trent) leads to open war between Britain and the North. The British then attack Confederate territory by mistake, whereupon North and South join forces to give the British a royal shellacking, eventually driving them from the continent (the French Canadians form an independent republic). Harrison has thrown in some original touches, such as leading roles for John Stuart Mill and William Tecumseh Sherman. Many of the other historical characters are well handled and the burgeoning military technology of the area is explored in some detail. But the British are so consistently depicted as gross bunglers and their leaders (including a Queen Victoria straight out of Kitty Kelley) as Anglophobic stereotypes that all of Harrison's homework ends up supporting what is hardly above the level of an idiot plot. This appears to be the first of a series. Illustrations. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 04, 1999
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