by Ramona Wheeler
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765335975
Date: 04 February 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
What if the grand power of Egypt never waned? Ramona Wheeler takes this premise and follows it down the halls of time to a future where the world is at peace, but not everyone enjoys Pax Egypt. There are many descendants of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. The descendants rule most of Europe. Egypt rules through knowledge and peace. To keep abreast of the world, many spies are sent out. This novel follows the actions of one of these spies, Lord Scott Oken.
Oken returns from one mission and after helping his mentor and friend escape a criminal group is sent to find out the truth of some strange tales. There are rumors surrounding Incan attempts to reach the moon. Oken along with Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke travel to the exotic lands of the New World. Once there they meet members of the Incan ruling family and get sucked into internal rivalries.
There are also plots by Otto von Bismark and his queen to bring down Memphis. Their plots are far reaching and take advantage of instability wherever it is found.
The technology is significantly different, as the world has followed a different path. Never fear though, there are Incan Quetzals, dirigibles. They are quite different from our world's airships. They have wings and use birds for guidance and communications. Following in the footsteps of many of the greats in science fiction, much of the technology is not discussed in detail and is left to the imagination of the reader.
I decided to pick up this novel based on the setting alone. I had never read any of Ramona Wheeler's other works. I was happy with outcome. Wheeler is an Egyptian specialist. She has written a few books related to Egypt and the ancient religions of the country. This knowledge comes through in her writing about the religions as they have passed through the ages in her imagined world.
Three Princes is a well written and entertaining alternate history. It differs from most alternate histories in that there is not a major war as the focal point. The critical change that lead to Caesar not dying or Cleopatra and her children retaining power is not described in the novel.
Most of the novel follows Oken directly. There are a few POV changes to share events in other parts of the world. Oken is special because of his ability to remember things that he sees exactly. It makes him invaluable on missions. He attempts to be a ladies man, but things don't always quite work out for him as he always seems to be in the shadow of someone else.
I would definitely recommend this to readers that enjoyed Robert Silverberg's Roma Eterna. I personally enjoyed Three Princes more than Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt.