JAWS OF DARKNESS
The absorbing, character-centered fifth volume (after 2002's Rulers of the Darkness) in Turtledove's fantasy saga paralleling WWII ranks as the strongest yet in the series. WWII buffs will of course enjoy watching the equivalents of the Manhattan Project, D-Day, the great Russian offensives of 1944, the appearance of German secret weapons and the withdrawal of Romania from the Axis. And the author continues to handle the action, both magical and martial, as deftly as ever. But the heart of the volume is the characters who face predicaments and ethical challenges that are personal yet universal. Ealstan and his Kaunian wife, Vanai, are any young couple trying to love, give their child a safe, sane and reasonably sanitary life and get a good night's sleep—but in the midst of war and genocide. When the Kuusaman mage Pekka confronts her passion for the Lagoan sorcerer Fernao, she ends up hip-deep in problems that would roil a suburban pharmaceutical warehouse, let alone a sorcerous research center at war. Countess Krasta bears an illegitimate child after her brother, Skarnu, returns to a liberated Valmiera, and only the possibility that its father is a member of the local resistance keeps her from suffering the usual fate of female collaborators. Long but ultimately compelling, this book augurs well for the last volume and underscores Turtledove's astonishingly fertile imagination. (Apr. 24)
Forecast:With an interview in the February Locus, plus several recent major books, including Ruled Britannia (Forecasts, Oct. 21, 2002), which supposes the Spanish conquered Elizabethan England, Turtledove is on a roll that promises increasing sales.