Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: The War of the Grail by Geoffrey Wilson

This is the conclusion to Geoffrey Wilson's alternate English history that began with Land of Hope and Glory and The Place of Dead Kings. For those who don't know, the Land of Hope and Glory series is an alternate history (with some fantasy and steampunk elements...probably should just call it gunpowder fantasy) series where the European empires never developed.

Instead, Europe was conquered early on by the Moors who converted most of the continent to Islam except for the British isles (and maybe Eastern Europe, but that is left ambiguous). They are eventually replaced by an Indian empire known as Rajthana, one of many such nations from the sub-continent that compete for influence over the world. England fell to Rajthana, but the English didn't take to colonialism well (who knew?) and rebelled during the events of Land of Hope and Glory. The rebellion is not going well and by The War of the Grail, the English rebels are getting desperate.

Okay, enough with the backstory. Our hero, Jack Casey, has returned from Scotland no closer to finding the Holy Grail, the one weapon that saved the English twice in the past. The English's Sikh ally, Kanvar (whose people appear to play the Russian role in this universe's Great Game), believe that certain maps Jack brought back with him from Scotland may hold the final clue. They need to hurry though, because the Rajthanans have made their final move to crush the last pocket of English resistance. Meanwhile, a monster is terrorizing the countryside and may have a part to play in the battle to come.

I found The War of the Grail to be a satisfying conclusion to the series (although Wilson has hinted this may not be the last book set in this universe). It was darker in tone than its immediate sequel and had more in common with its progenitor, Land of Hope and Glory, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Wilson didn't skimp on the horrors of war and, because this was the third book in the trilogy, there was a mass grave of minor characters.

Readers who like pure alternate history, without magic or steampunk, probably won't enjoy The War of the Grail. Those who just want a good story, however, should definitely pick it up...although you probably want to check out the previous books just so you know what is going on. I look forward to future books set in this universe, hopefully set somewhere a little more exotic, maybe even this timeline's India.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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