cover image Council of Fire

Council of Fire

Eric Flint and Walter H. Hunt. Baen, $25 (480p) ISBN 978-1-982124-15-1

Ghosts and fiends from Native American, Caribbean, and African folklore populate this well-constructed but slow-moving alternate history prequel to the Arcane America series (Uncharted, etc.). In 1759, the appearance of Halley’s Comet unleashes magic and raises a mountain range in the Atlantic Ocean that permanently severs the Americas from Europe. The Native tribes and the early British and French colonizing forces must make peace and learn to survive on their own amid Scottish ghosts, Jamaican vodou revenants, and a kraken. After the Six Nations’ peaceful Council Fire is extinguished, Seneca strongman Guyasuta harnesses magical power to raise storm spirits and stone golems, planning to expel white invaders from the continent. Meanwhile, Adm. Edward Boscawen rescues the shipwrecked French astronomer Charles Messier and his assistant, Catherine LaGendière, in the Caribbean. Messier has created an “alchemetical” compass to detect magical aether, which may be of use amid rising tensions. Boscawen also enlists the help of Prince Edward, grandson of England’s King George and the highest ranking royal in the Colonies, and one Col. George Washington. Readers will enjoy the smart worldbuilding and historical details of colonial shipping, political conflict, race relations, and Native cultures. Unfortunately, the slow start, extraneous plot threads, and the scarcity of female characters mar an otherwise impressive adventure. (Nov.)