1635: Papal Stakes (Ring of Fire)
by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
Cover Artist: Tom Kidd
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451638394
Date: 02 October 2012 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The action picks up in the aftermath of 1635: Cannon . Frank and Gia are in the hands of Borja's cronies. The Pope is on the run and keeping him safe and gathering allies is important. When things are going bad, who do you bring in? The Wrecking Crew and Harry Lefferts. He led the rescue at the Tower of London and for several other harrowing adventures. Everyone is expecting him to once again make it happen. But when things are set up to give the Harry everything he expects, he steps in and fails dramatically. The failure leads to the real action of the story.
Once again the technology advantage of those allied with Grantville and the USE is telling, but numbers and good plans can overcome some of the advantage as Harry found out. Technology and secrecy are what Ruy and Sharon are using to protect the Pope. But secrets can only stay hidden for so long. The race is on to get enough support that the current numerical superiority of the Spanish can be negated before the hunters close in on the prey.
All of the characters are involved in protecting the Pope or rescuing Frank Stone and his wife. During the course of this action is the advancement of balloon technology and the move towards more stable and longer ranged designs. Balloons do play a major role in the final outcome of the action.
The Ring of Fire series is one of the longest running shared world series. It also has a large stable of authors that contribute. The part related to Italy and the Catholic Church had been written by Andrew Dennis. Charles Gannon takes the helm in this installment. Longtime fans need not worry, Gannon hits all the right notes.
As a later book in a series and a part of a larger shared universe, this is not the best starting point for new readers. There is a huge amount of background information that new readers need in order to follow the action. See the 1632 series reading order http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/1632-series-reading-order/ for a suggested order.