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    Review of A SUNDIAL IN A GRAVE: 1610 by Mary Gentle

    Perennial, May 2005

    Spy, duelist, and killer Valentin Rochefort has no intention of betraying his king and his mentor. But when the Queen blackmails him, he resolves to conduct the most botched assassination in history. But chance can play an ugly hand. Not only does Rochefort's assassination succeed, he's caught by an angry duelist as he tries to flee Paris. Together with the duelist Dariole, along with shipwrecked samurai Saburo, Rochefort finally escapes to England. But there are men in England who can put men capable of assassinating a king to use. And James I is not exactly strong on his throne.

    In England, a group of rogue mathmetitians have calculated that a comet will strike the earth and destroy it--within five hundred years. Only by taking action, by bringing about a new future can Earth be prepared to ward off this future destruction. Rochefort is to become a catspaw in this game of empires as the scientists attempt to manipulate the future.

    Author Mary Gentle combines a detailed view of a vital period in history with a touch of romance to deliver an exciting story. The evolving relationship between Rochefort and Dariole drives the story at least as much as do the mathmagics of the occult calculators. The Japanese influence adds intriguing and historically plausible possibilities in a world where Japan was poised between joining commerce and Imperialism and cutting itself off and living for two centuries in isolation.

    Conspiracy buffs will get a kick out of Mary Gentle's ultimate resolution to the problem of knowing the future and the ethical dilemmas of having to kill innocent people to save others. Fans of swashbuckling adventure will enjoy Rochefort's duels--and more adult readers will get a kick out of the strange relationship that develops between Rochefort and Dariole.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 5/08/05

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