1636: The Cardinal Virtues (The Ring of Fire)
by Eric Flint and Walter H. Hunt
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476780610
Date: 07 July 2015 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The King is dead. Long live the King. Change is on the horizon, now a chance decision leads to upheaval and a new order. Although the action takes place mainly in France, Grantville has a role to play as everyone tries to figure out what is going on and how to react to the new situation.
It isn't just Louis of France, Cardinal Richelieu, the architect of France and her foreign policy is missing. Is he alive or is he dead. The mystery keeps many wondering and a new king unsure of his safety and position. Plans put in place before he goes missing go into action, and the most wanted person in the realm, is a new born, who may be the heir to the throne. To others, the baby is a potential obstacle to power.
Into the turmoil are two citizens of Grantville looking for a new start. They find opportunity before everything goes haywire and as the action grows they are privy to much of the action. The world is about to change and they are at the center of the action.
Terrye Jo Tillman needs to get away from her family and the tragedy that has been dragging her down. She is trained in operating the wireless telegraph. While helping to install one set, she is offered a high payment to stay on and train others to operate the system. When Gaston, Louis the XIII brother, comes through, she is brought into the action surrounding the French throne. She will travel to Paris as a trusted aid, but can she survive at court as an outsider from the future?
Sherrilyn Maddox former gym teacher and former part of the Wrecking Crew is recovering from the groups last mission. Her injuries will limit her going forward, but her knowledge is still in demand. Marshall Turenne has an army with very good weapons, but he needs some troops that can do other things. For that he needs someone who understands how to do things differently. This is a good opportunity until the King dies and the succession is in question.
The Cardinal Virtues centers in France, a country relatively untapped to this point. The changes that occur will have repercussions on Europe and the balance of power. There is a chance that France could come into the fold, or return to a state of animosity. The uncertainty is important.
This novel focuses more on a female lead than the mainline novels of the Ring of Fire series. This is not unusual for the universe as there have been several other novels that had a large female POV presence such as 1636: The Viennese Waltz. Sherrilyn and Terrye Jo were not major characters to this point.
The genius of the Ring of Fire series is the large cast of characters that can be mined for action and adventure without really calling in the big stars for every action. This additional action gives great depth to the universe, as the action can go to places there is no way a few main characters could ever see. The sharing of action also allows stories to stay focused on action. If there is a greater story to be told, it is a separate short story or novel.
As an entrant into a larger series, it isn't the best starting point, but for the most part it does stand alone. Although there are numerous references to action in other stories and novels. This is a novel that fans of the series will enjoy.