Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Bronze Summer Bronze Summer
by Stephen Baxter

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jackui Smith

Now, I’ll admit that I cheated. I borrowed a copy of Stone Spring from the library to read first and get some of the background before reading Bronze Summer as it is the second book of the trilogy. Now, while it did give some setting and context, it wasn’t essential as the three books are set millennia apart, and have an entirely separate cast of characters.

The Northland trilogy is an unusual take on alternate history in that the turning point is so far back that we are actually talking alternate pre-history. Stone Spring is set deep in the Mesolithic, when the ice caps are melting and the seas rising, threatening Etxelur, the drowned lands beneath the North Sea that archaeologists know as Doggerland. Baxter brings a character all the way from ancient Jericho to introduce new building techniques—featuring the humble brick—and those skills are used to construct a wall to hold back the sea.

Which brings us to Bronze Summer. It’s now the Bronze Age, around 1159 BC, and everything is about to go to custard with the eruption of one of the more notorious Icelandic volcanoes, Hekla a.k.a. the Hood. The Greeks have demolished Troy—and our primary villain is an obsessive Trojan who finds his way to Etxelur. Our heroine is Miliqa, daughter of the Annid of Annids, matriarch of Etxelur—who was thought to have died in a hunting accident. But she was assassinated, an iron arrowhead found in her chest. Miliqa must find out who did this, and why… and then she must save the Wall, or Etxelur will perish. The Year of the Fire Mountain is a year without a summer, which means famine, which that leads to war, across the known world. This is not a small-scale story!

Baxter has done his homework, and his altered world is almost perfectly believable. I just had the odd quibble about marching entire armies across Bronze Age Europe in time of famine. Mind you, Alexander the Great got to India…

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