Land of Mist and Snow
by Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald
Review by Bill Lawhorn
EOS Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 0060819197
Date: 01 December, 2006 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
This book tells the tale of the Nicodemus, a wooden ship created by the designs of philosopher William Sharp. The story unfolds through a series of journal and letter entries. The two main characters are a young lieutenant, John Nevis and Miss Columbia Abrams. It is quite unusual for a woman to be part of the crew of a sailing ship as it is seen as ill luck. Miss Abrams though has a sensitivity to the occult as well as the necessary purity needed to serve the spirit of the ship. On her maiden voyage, the Nicodemus, begins its pursuit of the Alecto. The Alecto was manufactured by William Walker in Nicaragua. Using a different source of occult power, Walker's ship is set to terrorize union shipping. During the voyage the decision must be made as to the righteousness of their cause and the way they come to victory.
At its most basic level, this alternate history, differs from our time line in that occult power is real. Through hard work and luck Sharp is able to find hidden knowledge that allows him to tap into the spirit world. The battle is between good and evil, but makes the reader think about the method used to achieve victory. This story at another level deals with the pettiness and spiteful nature of man. Cornelius Vanderbilt is getting revenge on William Walker whose plotting cost Vanderbilt money in Nicaragua when Walker led a successful revolt.
Some may compare this book to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but that would be a disservice to this book. This book does not get bogged down in the details of magic or extended footnotes. It is not nearly as long or tedious. The use of journal and letters to tell a story is risky, but works in this case.
Some Civil War buffs may be expecting more of a Monitor and Merrimac (Virginia) battle. But these ships get out and move and are very different from the ironclad monstrosities that dueled. Their final battle does end with a finality unlike the battle between the ironclads.
I enjoyed this book and found it a quick read. For those who do not enjoy magic and the occult, you should probably stay away because it is central to the action of the tale. If you can enjoy a good tale and don't fear the unknown, enjoy.