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    Review of FORTUNE'S STROKE by Eric Flint and David Drake


    BAEN, 2000

    Belisarius has pushed back the Malwa (Indian) invasion of Persia, but the threat remains. While the main Malwa army regroups in southern Persia, their main cavalry force is crossing the Zacros Mountains and threatening northern Mesopotamia. Even the smaller army is large enough to do great damage--and to force the defending Persians and Romans to divide their forces, allowing the main army to attack once more. Somehow, Belisarius must slow the best army the Malwa can bring--yet can even slowing that army do more than delay the inevitable conquest of the entire world by Malwa armies guided by a future intelligence--and equipped with future technology?

    FORTUNE'S STROKE continues the BELISARIUS Series began with AN OBLIQUE APPROACH (see our review), which is available FREE from the BAEN Library ( Historically, Belisarius was the greatest general of the late ancient world--the man Byzantine Emperor Justinian relied upon in his reconquest of the Roman Mediterranian. In this alternative history, Belisarius is warned by a crystal intelligence of the destruction sought by the future entity Link, and Link's human servants. Using Roman technology and modern knowledge, Belisarius is able to build a small force of musketeers and develop combined arm tactics that combine the best of Robert E. Lee, and Wellington.

    Although the series continues to be interesting, with engaging characters and vivid battle scenes, FORTUNE'S STROKE is not the strongest novel in the series. Although Belisarius and his allies repeatedly note that the first law of battle is that things get messed up (in stronger language), in fact, Belisarius's plans never actually get messed up (except a minor problem at the very beginning). He seems to have just the right future technology at just the right time to do maximum damage to his enemies. Worse, the most dangerous enemies he faces are clearly being set up to become future allies. I also felt disappointed by the 'clever' Belisarius plan at the end. The entire book led up to this--it seems to me that Flint and Drake could have come up with something a little more, uh, oblique.

    Authors Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by this author) and David Drake (see more reviews of novels by this author) deliver vivid characters along with detailed battle scenes. Although the interaction between Belisarius and Antonia is sometimes a little too precious, most characters become real--even the Malwa and their allies.

    Fans of this series will definitely want to read FORTUNE'S STROKE as it details a critical period in the war between Rome and the Malwa, continues character development, and even--brutally but realistically--ends the lives of some characters. This book should not be read first--but fortunately, Flint and Drake offer the first three novels in the series for free from the Library so this isn't a problem.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/22/02

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