Bronze Summer: The Northland Trilogy
by Stephen Baxter
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451464798
Date: 06 November 2012 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Thousands of years have passed since the people of Etxular first fought back against the rising tides. Long gone are Ana, Novu, Shade, and Gall. They started the wall that protects Northland and are now little more than legends. Now the family of a former leader, a fallen queen, and a child of the sack of Troy take up the action.
The major eruption of a volcano on Kirike's Land (Iceland) cools the world. The loss of summer reduces the growing season. This comes on top of a long drought that affects farming kingdoms of the Middle Sea. People are starving and Kingdoms are falling. When food gets scarce, people go on the move.
The anarchy that develops puts the raiders on the path to confront the relative prosperity of Northland that maintains a small population and lives off the bounty of the land with very limited agriculture.
Milaqa is one of Kuma's, the former leader of Northland, children. She has a gift for languages, but is relatively unsettled and doesn't want to choose a future. She will travel great distances, but rarely has control of her future.
Qirum is a bastard son of Troy. He makes his way in the world as a sailor and pirate. The once great city is a shadow of its former greatness. Qirum gets by on scraps until he buys a new slave.
Kilushepa was the wife of a king. Betrayal sends her into slavery. She convinces Qirum that she can help him. Her goals are her own, but to accomplish her goals she lays the foundation for the survival or fall of Northland.
Baxter does not glorify war. He shows it at its worst and does not pull punches on the aftermath. Bronze Summer continues the unaltered depravity and harsh outcomes of life and war first displayed in Stone Spring.
This is very much a Baxter novel. There is a huge jump in time between novels. Similar long gaps in time were in his Time's Tapestry series. I knew there was a gap going in, but it took me a little time to feel comfortable with the new characters. Part of it is that they are spread out all over the world and it takes time to place them and their relationship to the others.
A sign of a good Alternate History is that it causes readers to think about how the world developed. I thought about how the sea was held back on the side without a wall. I also wondered a lot about the climatic changes related to the ocean currents. These factors are key to the developing world and the action of the novel.
I have been reading the Super Volcano series by Harry Turtledove. The changes in climate wrought by a major eruption can change the world. Readers that want to see how a major eruption affects the modern world should check out the series. Bronze Summer touches on the period in which Troy was prominent. There are many other works set around that time. David Gemmellís final series was a retelling of the Trojan War. SM Stirling's Island in a Sea of Time was set around the same time with modern Americans sent back. There are also Homer and Virgil.
In my review of Stone Spring I guessed that the third title would be Iron Autumn/Fall. I was wrong. It is Iron Winter. Even though I was wrong about the title, I still look forward to the chance to read that volume as well. There is also some short fiction related to this series on Baxterís website, visit http://www.stephen-baxter.com/stories.html#northland.