1635: A Parcel of Rogues (Ring of Fire)
by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis
Cover Artist: Thomas Kidd
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476781099
Date: 05 January 2016 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
After escaping the Tower of London, the only logical thing to do is start a revolution. Harry Lefferts and Mellissa Mailey's tale has continued in other novels, now the story of the other escapees is finally told.
Oliver Cromwell was imprisoned for a crime he had yet to commit. During his time in the Tower, he met the Wrecking Crew from Grantville. Freed by the escape organized by Harry Lefferts, Cromwell, Darryl McCarthy, Julie Sims-Mackay, Alex Mackay, and Gayle Mason make their way North towards Scotland. An Irish mercenary, William Finnegan, is sent to hunt them on behalf of King Charles Stuart and his minister Montrose, the Duke of Cork.
The overall action turns to the future of Scotland for the most part. Unity has always been a problem. One of the greatest accomplishments of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce was the unification of the clans. But the clans being the clans, internecine rivalries hold the country back. The clans that have prospered are not trusted by the others. This rivalry has been used by the Kings of England to maintain control. In the mix is the Catholic and Protestant power struggle. Although often ignored, religious practices are a potential powder keg.
On the way North, the group stops to find the surviving children of Oliver Cromwell. The tactics used by Finnegan and his mercenaries is a strong clue as to how the pursuit will be carried out. During their escape, pains are taken to make sure that Finnegan sees Mackay leaving the area so that the mercenaries will pursue them out of the area.
Once in Scotland, Alex is arrested and faces the charge of helping Cromwell to escape along with the rest of the USE embassy. Although able to escape, Mackay chooses to face the trial. Finnegan has plans to catch Cromwell. Unknown to everyone, an old nemesis from France gets involved. The final play will be bloody in ways readers won't expect.
This is the twentieth novel in the Ring of Fire series. As a later novel in a shared universe it isn't the best starting point for new readers. There is a lot of background story and action built into the story that a new reader would have difficulty following. Baen books has been generous in offering their backlist for free or at low prices so getting into the series from the beginning isn't a bad way to go.
I didn't enjoy this novel as much as many of the other novels in the series. It may have been some of the religious discussion that bored me. The ending was much better than the beginning and middle of the novel. I also didn't enjoy the use of dialect. That has been a pet peeve of mine for years even when it is appropriately used. The one aspect of the story that was improved was the humanizing of Julie Mackay. In the early novels she was a bit too perfect, here she isn't and it makes her a better character.