1636: The Ottoman Onslaught (Ring of Fire)
by Eric Flint
Cover Artist: Tom Kidd
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476781846
Date: 03 January 2017 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The best-laid plans don't make it through first contact with the enemy. The USE is in a multi-front war with Poland and Bavaria. The Eastern Front with Poland is relatively quiet, but the war in Bavaria is heated. There is still the threat of the titular Ottoman Empire to the Southeast.
Mike Sterns is in charge of the Third Division. He is tasked with bringing Bavaria to its knees. He takes up the task to the best of his ability, but he sees the Ottoman's as the greater threat and prepares for the inevitable--marshaling troops and technology from across Europe.
Gretchen Richter is in Saxony. She is organizing the country since its liberation. But there is a problem in neighboring Silesia. The mercenaries hired by the Polish to control the area are looting the country. In order to remove the threat, she creates a force to invade.
Rebecca Sterns has been a leader in Parliament, but it never suited her demeanor. Gustavus Adolfus has plans for her and many others. Each offer he makes binds people to him and his plan. But plans are forced to change when the Ottoman invasion begins. Alliances must be supported and the city of Vienna saved. Vienna survived multiple attacks by the Ottomans. Surely it won't be different this time.
This is part of the main storyline of the Ring of Fire. There has been a big build up towards several of the confrontations. Some of them play out as expected. The Ottomans, on the other hand, have carefully prepared for this invasion. This is where the plan diverges.
As a later book in a long-running series, it isn't the best entry point for new readers. There are over twenty novels and collections in the series. Additionally, there is The Grantville Gazette which publishes original fiction by the main authors as well as fans. It is the proving ground for many of the new authors who are writing new novels. All this from a throwaway idea many years ago.
I was happy to see a mainline novel which moved the story forward and returned to the characters who fans fell in love with when the series started. Although some of the sidebar novels are interesting and entertaining, they often don't hold a candle to the action which goes on around Michael Sterns. It was good to see Julie Sims return to her roots as well.
Although this will never be up for the best novel award. If the Hugo Series award ever moves forward, The Ring of Fire will have to be considered a serious contender. This is a shared universe which is popular and continues to grow, with multiple novels published each year exploring the history of a world charting a new course.