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    SENTRY PEAK by Harry Turtledove

    Baen, September 2000

    In the eastern front of the great civil war that divides Detina, the gray-clad South has been defeating the blue-clad North, freeing the blond serfs that Northern aristocrats have held captive for centuries. Still, the North has powerful magics that may yet prevail and the armies of each side are commanded by incompetent fools.

    Harry Turtledove (see other reviews by this author) has taken the American Civil War, reversed the compass points and colors, added a fantasy element (the cavalry rides unicorns rather than horses) and kings rather than Presidents, and created a number of engaging characters to fill out the naration. In the west, in the U.S. Civil War, the South was bled until it could no longer support Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Turtledove does history buffs a favor by calling attention to this less-studied side of the destructive war that so divided the U.S.

    Turtledove reflects the moral ambiguity of a civil war by presenting both sides sympathetically, warts and all. While the south may be fighting to end serfdom for the blonds, many of the soldiers have mixed feelings--they fight for their country and their king. Similarly, the north sees its traditional rights trampled by southern merchants who understand the value of money more than that of beauty.

    SENTRY PEAK limits itself to a small enough group of point-of-view characters to allow narative line to flow (something Turtledove did not accomplish in his World War II series). Readers will have to judge for themselves whether they enjoy this type of history lesson embellished by unicorns and Lion gods. Many of the parallel name changes are amusing (Gettysburg becomes Essoville, get it?). The novel could have done with a close edit as the reader is told the same things over and over. Many fantasy buffs are also history fans and SENTRY PEAK provides an intriguing way to get both at the same time.

    One Star

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