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    Review of THE RIVERS OF WAR by Eric Flint

    Del Rey, May 2005

    During the War of 1812, the young Sam Houston leads a charge at the Battle of the Horse Shoe--and achieves a level of fame. The battle, against the Creek tribes allied with the British, was a victory but Andrew Jackson's militias did enough damage to allied Native American lands and people that Jackson was stripped of their help. He sends Houston to Washington to see if the combination of Houston's Native American connections and Jackson's strong letters can get some action.

    In Washington, Houston arrives in time to participate in the defense of the city--a defense that didn't happen in our history because Houston was wounded too severely at Horse Shoe. He becomes a hero of the city (along with one armed former Sergeant Driscol. With his new-found fame, Houston pushes for a different solution to the 'Indian Problem.' Rather than continue bickering between the Cherokee and the encroaching white settlers, Houston persuades Secretary of State Monroe to support the movement of the Cherokee across the Mississippi to establish a Native American nation that will have time to grow in strength to where it simply could not be brushed aside by the growing republic.

    Of course, Houston will have to survive the Battle of New Orleans first, and the British learned something from Houston's defense of the capitol. They won't make the stupid mistakes they made in our history.

    Author Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by Flint) creates an enjoyable mix of history and alternate history in this story. Houston and especially ex-Sergeant Driscol are well-developed characters that add interest to a fascinating account of a part of history that is largely glossed over in most schools. British General Ross, 'saved' by Flint from a death at the abandoned siege of Baltimore (and there's a cute scene of Francis Scott Key writing the Star Spangled Banner about the defense of the Capitol rather than Baltimore harbor) is another charming character whose insights into battle help clarify what's going on.

    A couple of flaws keep THE RIVERS OF WAR from reaching its full potential. Occasionally characters get chatty, talking about things we already know without advancing the plot. And for me, the battles, especially the personal combat, seemed a bit drawn out. In the grand scheme of things, though, these flaws are minor and certainly didn't prevent RIVERS from being a highly enjoyable story. For alternate history buffs like myself, there's the added advantage of an alternate take that just might lead to a better alternative than the horrible destruction of the great North American Indian civilizations.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 6/29/05

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