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.
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 5 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.
Land of Hope and Glory is THE REFRESHING ALTERNATE HISTORY SETTING with THE ULTIMATE MIX OF STEAM, MAGIC, ACTION, MYTHS, and LEGENDS!