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    Review of THE SHADOW OF THE LION by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint & Dave Freer

    Baen, March 2002

    The Grand Duke of Lithuania, under the control of a demon, is thwarted in his expansion attempts by the Holy Roman Empire. But the Empire has many demands on its resources and the Duke realizes that the focal point is Venice. If the Empire can be persuaded to divert its efforts into the quagmire of Italy, evil has a good chance to run over the weakened borders. Renaisance Venice is a city of feuds, rich merchants, magic, and mystery. The Emperor sends his nephew and possible heir into the Italian stew, accompanied by a Norse/Vinlander bodyguard and a group of Teutonic-style knights. Two young brothers, Marco and Benito struggle for their place in the city, abandoned by their family but still hunted by vendetta enemies. And Maria and Kat work Venice's famous canals in their gondolas. But the forces of evil are strong and Venice's ancient protector sleeps deeply.

    Authors Mercedes Lackey (see more reviews of novels by Lackey), Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by Flint) and Dave Freer (see more reviews of novels by Freer) combine to create an intriguing alternate history. In this world, magic exists, Hypatia of Egypt converted to Christianity and became a Saint, the Greeks still control Constantinople, Germany is united in a useful empire that doesn't quite squander all of its resources in Italy, and Lithuania and Hungary rather than the Ottoman Empire threaten the west. The Christian Church is split between Petrian and Pauline branches with the more rigid Pauline being especially strong in Germany closer to the battle against the demons themselves.

    THE SHADOW OF THE LION is a massive work--and only the first in a multivolume series. Its focus is almost wholly on Venice--the richest city in the world and a major link between east and west. Somehow, Marco and Benito must not only keep themselves alive, but also grow to the point where they can save the city. Because when the day comes, all of the Empire's forces, even his nephew Manfred, will be able to do little unless Venice can shake off its lethargy.

    Alternate history buffs will enjoy the way SHADOW twists history--making it interesting to people who enjoy history but without beating the reader over the head with it.

    Be warned, though. SHADOW is a major commitment. It takes time and energy to get through. This isn't the kind of book you can sit down with and get lost in. You'll work at it--but it'll be worth it.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 2/22/04

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