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1634: The Bavarian Crisis (The Ring of Fire) by Eric Flint & Virginia DeMarce
Cover Artist: Tom Kidd
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416542537
Date: 02 October 2007 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The saga of the little West Virginia town of Grantville swept back to the 17th century continues. As the forces of the United States of Europe fight the forces of France, Denmark, England and Spain in the North and West; not all is quiet on the Eastern front. Maria Anna, the archduchess of Austria is sent to wed a widowed Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. He is much older and not really interested in marrying again.

Also heading east on personal missions are Veronica Dreeson and Mary Simpson. Veronica, Gretchen Ritcher's mother, wants to reclaim properties lost when her husband was killed and she was taken with her family by a group of mercenaries. Mary is looking for a way to recreate normal schools so that education can expand more quickly. But in and around Grantville, things are never simple. A family's black sheep plans a murder to clean up an old crime. Some bad timing and an accidental kidnapping bring the two together with Maria Anna and two members of the trading Cavriani family.

In the Spanish Netherlands, Don Fernando is looking for a bride. As he moves towards declaring an independent kingdom, Don Fernando must find a bride that is both of consequence and healthy. It wouldn't hurt if she was attractive either. As paintings come in of eligible ladies, he is drawn to one that is no longer available, Maria Anna. Events in the East will help determine who he weds.

The English Ladies, a catholic order of nuns, wants to be allowed to open a school. The problem is that nuns are not supposed to be out in the world. Old biases and new ideas will lead to new opportunities and challenges. Throw in a strong minded archduchess and you get a rip roaring adventure in Bavaria and Austria and a flight across Europe.

The latest chapter in the Ring of Fire saga focuses mainly on a few strong female characters. It occurs simultaneously with events in the other books titled 1634. Although the outcome is telegraphed early on the journey to the end is worth taking.

It can be a little confusing reading the Ring of Fire series as subplot stories are developed along with the main sequence books. Readers should pay close attention to the authors that are co-writing the novels as that will generally guide you to which plot line is being advanced. This is not a stand alone novel. A reader should at least read 1632 and 1633 before trying to read this novel. Reading other novels will make some of the inside jokes and intricate politics more clear.

I have enjoyed each of the Ring of Fire books and I expect to continue to enjoy future entries. I find compelling the stories that show how both uptimers and downtimers adjust to their new world. Take some time and escape to the 17th century.

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