Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Edi's Spotlight: Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson

Dear Readers,

as a blogger and reviewer I like the increasing number of review requests. I do not accept every request. First of all the book needs to be interesting for me and secondly I prefer polite requests.
A request in commanding tone (there are authors who do that) leads automatically to a declination and it does not matter how interesting the book will be.

In June I received a polite request to review an alternate history debut novel. Within minutes I have been intrigued by the book and promised the author in exchange for a review copy to read an review his book.

But that was only the beginning. Mails flew to and fro with the result,
that you will get a review followed by an interview followed by a worldwide giveaway!!

And this is what I can tell you about the book. 

 Author Geoffrey Wilson sent me a signed paperback review copy of his alternate history debut novel Land of Hope and Glory (pb, 2012)[ISBN-13: 978-1444721126].This is at the same time the first book in the Land of Hope and Glory trilogy. The series will be continued with The Place of Dead Kings in October 2012.

Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store. The world of books is changing which means I also will take in account blurbs and descriptions on GOODREADS and other places.
Here we go:

"It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious power of sattva, the Rajthanans appear invincible. But a bloody rebellion has broken out in a remote corner of the empire, in a poor and backward region known as England.
At first Jack Casey, retired soldier, wants nothing to do with the uprising, but then he learns his daughter, Elizabeth, is due to be hanged for helping the rebels. The Rajthanans will spare her, but only if Jack hunts down and captures his best friend and former army comrade, who is now a rebel leader. Jack is torn between saving his daughter and protecting his friend. And he struggles just to stay alive as the rebellion pushes England into all-out war." [Source]

My Expectations
Based on the blurb and on the cover I expected an intriguing minumum two layer story: A man forced to make a barbarous decision, the gripping story of a rebellion in fascinating set up of alternate history. And I wanted to know if the two insects in the foreground of the cover will be mentioned in the book.

The Delivery
To warm up let me start on the formal level. The 376 pages of the story are divided into a prologue and two parts. These two parts are divided into 21 consecutively numbered chapters.
That makes it easier to set break points while reading if you need it. I read the book in just two sessions. I think you know this just one more chapter syndrome. That means the gripping factor is high.

India rules Europe! The conquest of India by the British Empire never happened. Instead Europe and other parts of the world have been conquested by the Rajthana Empire from the Asian continent. Whole Europe? No. Ireland and Scotland are independent. And after more than 100 years under the rule of Rajthana Empire the fire of rebellion has been inflamed in England.

Beside their vast armies there are two more things which make the Rajthana Empire superior.
Land of Hope and Glory is not headmost a steampunk book. It is common in the Rajthana Empire to use steam driven technology in form of trains, mills and more. But there is more behind these machines. There are beings called avatars from a spirit realm which are bound to the machines and these avatars are commanded by siddhas.
That is where the magic comes into play in Land of Hope and Glory. There is sattva. It flows in streams along the land like water in rivers.
Sattva is for magic what fuel is for engines. But it is not that easy to use sattva. Before one can use sattva you need to  master yantras. Each yantra is related to a certain ability like commanding avatars, healing, casting fireballs and more. The Rajthanans guard their sattva knowledge very well. Be sure that the mastery of sattva plays a role in Land of Hope and Glory which should not be underestimated.

The story is told in first person and we see most of the events through eyes of the main character: Jack Casey.
Jack Casey, retired soldier from Rajthanan army with an extraordinary tracking talent.
Jack Casey, an ex soldier who does not sympathize with the rebellion.
Jack Casey, responsible for the security of an Rajthanan property in England.
Jack Casey, proud father of his beloved 15 year old daughter Elizabeth.
Jack Casey, a man who can neither read nor write like so many other inhabitants of England.
Jack Casey, a man with principles.

How can you force such a man to work again for the Rajthanan army?
Just take what he loves most - his daughter.

In order to save her life he has to whistle-blow the rebellion in the shape of his best friend in the army who is now a rebel.

Jack Casey impressed me deeply with his consisteny of action which reminded me of Rorschach from the Watchmen. I must say that at a certain point of the story, his consistency raised to a point which hurt me emotionally.

So Land of Hope and Glory is the story of Jack Casey and it is so much more. It is a story of rebellion which refers to ancient times in form of the search for the Holy Grail as the ultimate weapon against the Rajthanan Empire. It is the story of ruthless officers which you find in nearly every army of the world. It is the story of the fight between David and Goliath. And after more than 100 years it is still a clash of cultures.

As I said before the story is told through the eyes of Jack Casey.
He is the secret weapon of author Geoffrey Wilson to bait his readers.
Jack is the anchor, the key, the memory, the engine, the discoverer, the chronist, the fighter, the lover, the emotional pulse of Land of Hope and Glory.
Jack is the reader's EYES, EARS, BRAIN and HEART in the Land of Hope and Glory. With every thought and action he reveals us more about himself, the country and most important about the Rajthanan Empire and sattva.
That may sound dry but Geoffrey Wilson shows an extraordinary talent in dosing the time he spent for his characters, his alternate world and his battle scenes in a nearly perfect mix. His descriptions of the insight of the Rajthanan army, the sattva secret, the battle scenes and Jack's inner fight are just gorgeous and fabulous. 

The end is a kind of end but leaves enough open questions which will hopefully answered in the following books. I'm happy that Jack Casey survived the emotional rollercoaster on last the pages of Land of Hope and Glory without a heart attack. I'm totally nosey how the story will continue with The Place of Dead Kings in October 2012.

Now it is time to come back to my expectations.

A man forced to make a barbarous decision ==> CHECKED
the gripping story of a rebellion in fascinating set up of alternate history ==> CHECKED
I wanted to know if the two insects in the foreground of the cover will be mentioned in the book - They do ==> CHECKED

So my expectations have been fulfilled 100 per cent.
But beyond my expections I got so much more which I did not expect in a debut novel.

Dear Readers,

Do not forget

- to visit Geoffrey Wilson's site
- to leave a comment - I like to get feedback


 come back tomorrow to read the interview with Geoffrey Wilson


don't miss the worldwide giveaway of two copies of

 Land of Hope and Glory
 on Thursday


Zoltán Gecse said...

Based on the story an alternative history you share in the blurb, the genre and the cover this book look very interesting. I think I like to read it. ;)

ediFanoB said...

just come back on Thursday this week. There will be a world wide giveaway of two copies of Land of Hope and Glory.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Hi Edi. Great review. I have loved the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwall about India although they are historic not fantasy. This sounds like a perfect mix of both genres.
Thanks for a great review. I might have to grab this one for reading on my up coming holiday. :)

ediFanoB said...

Hi Rosalie,
thank you for your kind words. You really deserve a holiday and I hope and wish you will have a great time.

M Pereira and Michael Fierce said...

Sounds truly bizarre but I think your review has won my interest!

ediFanoB said...

Hello M Pereira and Michael Fierce,

thanks for stopping by. Good to read that my review has been helpful for you.

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