Seven for a Secret Hardcover – 28 Feb 2009
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The First World War does not happen in this world, but what does is far worse that what we experienced in the real world. A Hitler analogue (The Prussian Chancellor) has won a European war and his forces now occupy England. The 'wampyr' Sebastian de Ulloa and his now elderly lover Abigial Irene Garrett return to London intent on battling this malign dictatorship. However, a young Jewish girl has worked her way right into the heart of this evil in order to exact the ultimate revenge...
This title in the New Amsterdam series goes to prove that no matter how much things change, things really stay the same. The way in which Bear twists our own history and creates something we at once recognise and find strange is the real success of this series. I do have to say I did not find this entry as fulfilling as the original New Amsterdam series of stories, but it is thrilling nonetheless. Perhaps my disappointment comes from loving the whole set-up, the drama the characters find themselves part of, but not seeing it through to its completion. I still give it four stars, because Bear creates people that I am invested in, people I have learned to care about.
If you find the idea of alternate history mixing with fantasy in any way interesting, you simply have to give the New Amsterdam series a go.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This short novella, a sequel to New Amsterdam, by the talented Elizabeth Bear is a skillful blend of alternate history, fantasy, and the macabre. Bear's writing is clear and brisk, and the character-driven plot tightly woven. I was amazed at Bear's ability to bring the characters to life with such economy, vividness, and subtlety.
My only non-subjective criticism is that a number of typographical errors appear throughout the text. As just one example, on page 108: "damn carpets" was used when "damp carpets" was apparently intended. (I say apparently because "damn" could technically work in context, but it seemed out of place.) In such a short, otherwise well-written work, such errors are particularly unfortunate. As far as a subjective concern: some readers may not wish to pay the full $25 hardcover price for a book of approximately 115 pages.
I did not read New Amsterdam prior to this book; however, Seven for a Secret was still engaging and, presumably, would appeal even more strongly to anyone who enjoyed its predecessor. I will certainly add New Amsterdam to my reading list. As for Seven for a Secret, I highly recommend it--as a discounted purchase or library loan--for fans of alternate history or post-medieval fantasy/macabre, especially those who enjoy a British or European setting.
There are scads of alternate-world stories, plenty of which feature Britain under a Germanic heel, but here is an alternate Germany which is neither the Kaiser's nor Hitler's, but a Prussia which is following its own path to Hell.
["Seven for Old England, Eight for France."]
There are plenty of stories involving werewolves and vampires, and it's difficult to write them in a really original and surprising way, but Sebastien is definitely not any sort of standard-issue vampire. And Ruth and Adele are very much not your usual werewolves.
["Eight for wishing, Nine for kissing, Ten for the love that I am missing."]
I especially appreciate the fact that Elizabeth Bear makes use of werewolf lore that comes from sources older than Hollywood, such as Peeter Stubbe's wolfskin belt.
["Eleven for health, Twelve for wealth, Thirteen beware - it's the Devil's own self!"]