The West Virginians from 20th Century America have changed the course of European history, landing as they did smack in the middle of Germany during the Thirty Years War. They've smashed the Spanish Armies marching across Germany, and averted Hapsburg coups in Northern Italy, but their toughest goal has been to establish the idea of religious tolerance. For a miracle, the Pope seems inclined to let toleration rule--but the Spanish Cardinal Borja wants to bring the full power of the church onto the side of using force to compell the Catholic faith.
The Americans in Rome can't believe that anyone would be stupid enough to try a military move against the Pope. First, the Spanish armies are needed in Naples, where unrest is everpresent. Second, using force against the Pope could splinter any hope for a Catholic alliance. Third, it could damage the relationship between the Spanish and Austrian branches of the Hapsburg family. Still, the Spanish are up to something and the American Ambasador's fiance does his best to find out what. The discovery that Cardinal Borja has hired a Spanish agent provacateur means that the danger is greater--but doesn't really explain what plans are under way--or what the Americans can do.
Author Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis combine in another step in a remarkable alternate history series. Flint's vision of an entire community, led by a rabble-rousing union organizer with firmly democratic motives thrust into the past creates a different kind of alternate history. Rather than the 'great man' approach common in alternate history classics, Flint stresses the social aspects. Following in this path, the books in the series examine individual Americans making a difference in their own way. 1635: THE CANNON LAW continues with this approach.
The basic concept remains solid, but since the first volume, the 1632 series has consistently fallen prey to long conversations with Americans telling each other what they already know and repeating themselves way too many times. 1635: THE CANNON LAW also suffered from its own problem--because the Americans cannot believe that Cardianal Borja will do anything as profoundly stupid as what he does, they don't do much to prepare for it. Nor do they do much else--other than wander around Rome, start soccer leagues, and plan for weddings and pregnancies. I understand that Flint wants to avoid the great man approach, but couldn't he have characters who are active, who have goals and who pursue them? In this story, Cardinal Borja is the active protagonist--the man with a plan. While we're given plenty of clues that he is a badguy (he looks down on others, etc.) it's hard not to be sympathetic to someone who's actually doing something rather than waiting around for someone else to act.
The whole purpose of an alternate history story is to show how things would be different if something had happened--if Andrew Jackson had not been injured, for example, in Flint's RIVERS OF WAR. An alternate history based on the supposition that the Spanish were even more stupid than they really were doesn't really excite me.
If you're hooked on this series, you'll want to grab this one. And it's certainly better than 1634: THE RAM REBELLION, but it falls a long way short of the best books in the series.