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1634: The Bavarian Crisis by Eric Flint and Virginia De Marce

Published by Baen Books

Cover art by Tom Kidd

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

One of the great strengths of Eric Flint's 1632 universe has been his careful attention to the role of the little people who so frequently have been overlooked in the histories. In this installment of the saga of the West Virginia coal-mining town transported backward in time to the Thirty Years' War, we see the converse of it -- even people who hold positions of importance still have personal interests. And it is the personal interests of a formerly very minor person that go on a collision course with the affairs of the mighty, complicated by the assumptions of high and low alike that a woman of her new status has to be about the affairs of great importance.

Veronica Dreeson, nee Richter, downtimer wife of Grantville mayor Henry Dreeson, has decided to recover her share of the estate of her late first husband, a legacy she hopes to use to fund the education of her granddaugter Annalise. Doing so will involve a trip through war-torn Germany to the small town where they once lived, so she joins a group already traveling in that direction on a mission to get iron mines back into operation for the war effort.

But when she arrives, she discovers that a rival heir has had her and her grandchildren declared dead so that he can claim the entire estate. Dismayed to discover her still alive, the treacherous Killian decides to rectify the situation, permanently. But when his hired thugs kidnap the two older women, everyone simply assumes that it is the act of a rival ruler.

The women are thrown straight into an international conflict that threatens to spread far and wide. The childless wife of Duke Maximillian of Bavaria has just died after a long illness, and while he would far prefer to retire to a monastery for the rest of his life, his advisors convince him that it is essential to an orderly succession that he remarry and sire an heir. Although he acquiesces, he remains dangerously unstable, a situation that becomes increasingly pronounced as one of his Austrian cousins arrives for her betrothal to him. So unstable, in fact, that she becomes increasingly convinced that he poses a danger to her safety.

But fleeing Munich will require the most delicate of subterfuge, and will throw her directly into the path of a woman who has every reason to hate and despise her kind. Her very survival may well depend upon her ability to win the respect of Veronica Dreeson, and that is something not lightly given.

Review posed December 14, 2008

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