Book: Destiny's Shield by Eric Flint and David Drake

Another excellent book in the "Bellasarius" alternate-history series

Eric Flint and David Drake
Destiny's Shield
Baen, 1999
ISBN: 0-671-57872-3
568 pages
Out of print; as of this writing, used copies seem to command a premium over the $6.99 cover price. Available online from the publisher for free.

Destiny's Shield is the third book in a six-book series of alternate-history novels by Eric Flint and David Drake. The series is set in the Byzantine Empire and the countries nearby and the main character is a historical figure, the Byzantine general Belisarius. The events in this book take place in 531 C.E.

The Byzantine Empire was the eastern half of the old Roman Empire. The western half is generally reckoned to have fallen (to barbarians such as my ancestors) in 476 C.E. but the eastern half lasted rather longer, until 1453. The easterners were Christian and spoke Greek, but called themselves Romans. As the series begins, Justinian is emperor and Belisarius is his best general. At the beginning of the first book, an intelligent artifact from the far future comes into Belisarius's possession. It informs him, communicating rather crudely at first, that there's a danger to the empire. Another empire, the Malwa from northern India, has assistance from rivals in the far future and intends to conquer the Byzantine Empire and much else besides.

This book is splendid fun. It could be read on its own, but you'd be much better off starting the series at the beginning. I've written about the previous books at: 1, 2. Spoilers regarding those books follow.

As this book begins there's a new emperor, but one who has full confidence in Belisarius. The Malwa have invaded Persia, traditionally Byzantium's rival, and the Persian emperor has asked the Byzantine emperor for an alliance against them. Of course, Belisarius commands the army that is sent to help. Belisarius's army is obviously too small to defeat the Malwa that are in Persia in a series of ordinary battles, but Belisarius prefers a subtle approach anyway.

Meanwhile, Antonina, Belisarius's wife, is sent, with the grenadiers she commands and some other rather interesting troops, to re-assert imperial control over her native city of Alexandria. Any future counterattack against the Malwa will have to be supported from there and so firm imperial control will be critical. And then there's the rebellion against the Malwa in southern India to support.

The plotting and pacing are good, the battles are stirring, and the characters are as entertaining and vivid as ever. All the virtues of the earlier books are present here. This series does not get bogged down in the middle.

Posted: Fri - July 6, 2007 at 07:12 PM   Main   Category: