cover image Black Chamber

Black Chamber

S.M. Stirling. Ace, $16 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-399-58623-1

Prolific fantasist Stirling (the Emberverse series) packs a mighty wallop in this high-spirited alternate WWI history, starring redoubtable Cuban-Irish-American heroine Luz O’Malley Aróstegui. It’s 1916, and Luz’s honorary uncle, Teddy Roosevelt, is president. Adrenaline-charged Luz, a secret agent of the CIA-like Black Chamber, sails the Atlantic on a sumptuous dirigible, inveigling herself into the arms of handsome German spy Baron Horst von Dückler so she can pry out information about Germany’s horrifying plot to prevent America from entering the war. Throughout, Luz utilizes the prevailing underestimation of women to efficiently dispose of Parisian street fighters, demolish a German professor’s interpretation of Nietzsche, pilfer the German plans, and endure two weeks on a U-boat with Horst and lissome Ciara, Luz’s other romantic interest. Sterling’s lavish historical, linguistic, and cultural detail—including sly digs at real-life figures, such as a youthful J. Edgar Hoover—enhance well-rounded characters to make this a highly enjoyable espionage romp. (July)