In this ambitious and absorbing sequel to Barnes's well-received alternate history, Lion's Blood (2002), the young Ethiopian nobleman and landholder Kai is now married and a father in Bilalistan (what we know as the southern United States). His Irish ex-slave, Aidan, is leading the perilous life of any freedman in a slave society. Complications arise when Kai takes as a second wife a high-ranking Zulu named Nandi, Aidan accidentally offends a black lady, and Egypt (the nominal overlord of Bilalistan) and Ethiopia threaten to go to war. At Kai's request, Aidan sells himself back into slavery to become a spy at the Egyptian court, while Kai deals with intrigues, assassins and suspected treachery from Nandi. Some readers may have a problem with the implausible time line (launched when Alexander the Great married an Egyptian princess) or some slightly hoary plot devices, such as Aidan's road to success lying through the bed of the Caliph's wife. But the magnificent abundance of detail of this alternate world carries the day, with considerable assistance from skilled characterization leaning to the romantic side. And it's hard to resist a story in which Aidan cruises into battle aboard the avatar of a Civil War monitor, crewed largely by Dahomeyan fighting women. One can find all kinds of pleasures in this book, and few of them guilty. (Mar. 19)
FYI:Barnes is also the author of a stand-alone fantasy thriller, Charisma (Forecasts, June 3, 2002). He is married to writer Tananarive Due.
Release date: 03/01/2003