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Much Fall of Blood by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, & Dave Freer
Cover Artist: Larry Dixon
Review by Mel Jacob
Baen Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439133514
Date: 18 May 2010 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Much Fall of Blood continues the series Heirs of Alexandria. In this alternative history/fantasy series, the Library of Alexandria wasn't destroyed and the Catholic Church uses magic albeit sparingly. The novel, set in 16th century, opens with the young Mongol prince Kildai falling from his horse. The next two bits focus on two magic users and then turns to Prince Manfred of Brittany, and Erik, his protector. In another switch, we meet Elizabeth Bartholdy, a sorcerer, who bargained with the dark powers for eternal youth. She seeks to free the imprisoned Vlad, Prince of Valachia.

Manfred, Eric, and a company of knights of the Holy Trinity are designated as guards to an envoy of the Ilkhan of Jerusalem to the Mongol Horde. The Ilkhan provides flags of truce to guarantee passage in the Horde's lands. A new Khan is to be elected and the Ilkhan hopes to influence the choice.

Meanwhile, Prince Jagiellon of Poland and Lithuania, intent on building an armada to take over the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, schemes to expand his influence and keep his enemies at each other's throats. The Ilkhan wants to disrupt these plans and destroy the armada. A demon controls Prince Jagiellon and manipulates spies throughout the known world. Even Elizabeth fears his power.

Venice and Genoa vie for trade dominance and plan an expedition into the Black Sea to thwart Jagiellon's plans. They hope with the support of the Golden Horde to succeed. Politics forms the backdrop and affect all the players.

Strong female characters: Bortai, sister of Kildai, Dana, Vlad's sister, and Elizabeth, the evil sorcerer, give quarter to no one. The Mongol princess Bortai can wrestle with the men and defeat them, shoot an oncoming warrior from a galloping pony, and escape those determined to kill her and her brother.

Young Dana's curiosity occasionally gets her in trouble, but she uses the information she learns to avoid most of it. The wolf-men and their creatures, the wyverns, teach and protect Dana. Posing as a gypsy troop, they hide the two from Hungarian troops sent to capture them. Elizabeth places a compulsion on Vlad, but he resists it. Determined to have his blood, she enchants others to help her. Imprisoned by Emeric from the age of ten, Vlad resists staying within walls,

Meanwhile, the wolf-men snatch Vlad from her and spirit him away. They fail to convince him that Elizabeth is not his friend. He admires Elizabeth and has trouble believing she seeks to control and destroy him.

Fantasy elements include magic, demons, shamans and sorcerers, the wolf-men, and the forces of nature. Vivid battle scenes pit Mongol warriors against armored knights. Guns play a part especially for Vlad as he devises new means to fight nasty King Emeric of Hungary and the clan controlled by an evil khan who tried to kill Prince Kildai and Bortai.

. Initially with all the characters and switches, I found the novel slow going and confusing. Those who have read the first two titles, The Shadow of the Lion and This Rough Magic, would not have that problem. Once the story got underway, the characters and events carry it forward to a satisfying conclusion, but clearly not the end of the series. The authors are all well known and accomplished writers able to provide an enjoyable and gratifying read.

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