Review of MUCH FALL OF BLOOD by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer
Heirs of Alexandria
Baen, May 2010
With the Byzantine Empire closing the Dardanelles, the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian trading dynasties are cut off from potential allies in the East. The fortuitously timed friendship between an Armenian King and a Venetian noble and an invitation from the Golden Horde to serve as an embassy allows Prince Manfred and his party to open an overland route to make contact with the Horde. Unfortunately, the evil Jagiellon has subverted the Horde and even supposedly sacrosanct ambassadors can be at risk. Fortunately, however, the western party meets up with the legitimate Mongol heir and his sister--and Erik is in love.
Meanwhile, Countess Elizabeth (bad) kidnapps Prince Vlad from her 'nephew' pretending to befriend him but actually intending to use his blood to further her demonic power. With the help of local werewolves, Vlad escapes...but is fooled into believing Elizabeth is on his side. When Vlad, which his cannons, meets up with Manfred and his knights, and the pretty Bortai and her Mongols, the forces of good suddenly have an effective mixed-arms force consisting of Mongol light cavalry, Knights of the Holy Trinity heavy cavalry, Vlad's dragoons, and Vlad's light artillery, as well as Vlad's invention of the laager-style circled wagon defense. After handling the horde, the mixed force can turn on the evil but incompetent King Emeric of Hungary. Still, while powerful, their forces are still small and Emeric has access to powerful magics as well as overwhelming numbers of soldiers.
Authors Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer (click their links to see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by each author) continue their massive Heirs of Alexandria alternate history fantasy with another intriguing combination of military fantasy and the personal touch (e.g., the romance between Erik and Bortai) that I suspect comes from Lackey.
Lackey/Flint/Freer work hard and succeed to make this more than a 'movement of armies' story. The ex-thief David adds a touch of humor, the romance between Erik, who recently lost his lover and Bortai, who can't imagine a world outside the Horde adds sweetness as does Vlad's sister, Dana. In contrast, Manfred never really emerges in this story and the badguys are fairly one-dimensional and not-too-bright. I would have preferred a set of antagonists who could see themselves as heroes in another story.
I read an advanced reader copy and there were a host of typographical and other errors. In addition, the map supplied was almost completely useless as few of the city names, river names, or small state names were listed and many important areas (e.g., Jerusalem where the story begins, Constantinople, and Trebizond) are off the map entirely. In addition, Lackey/Flint/Freer rely heavily on coincidence (the opening of the old Roman road through Albania, the offering of Ambassador status to Manfred and his Knights, the chance discovery of Bortai by the Knights, the interception of a letter by the slave Bortai happened to befriend, the chance meeting with Vlad just in time for battle). I also had a hard time with Vlad's failure to guess Elizabeth's treachery (and the failure of his gypsy/wolf friends to warn him after they'd rescued him).
Overall, MUCH FALL OF BLOOD is an enjoyable read and a welcome addition to the superior Heirs of Alexandria series.
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