Saint Antony's Fire
by Steve White
Cover Artist: Steven Hickman
Review by Harriet Klausner
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416555988
Date: 04 November 2008 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In the early sixteenth century, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon searches the New World seeking the rumored Fountain of Youth that the natives insist exists in the peninsular he explores. He apparently fails to find what he sought; but instead he discovers a strange craft that appears to have crashed from the sky; a seemingly impossible occurrence for a machine. He returns to Spain where rumors abound that he found something and someone unique in the New World and brought it home with him. Until his death in 1513, he always insisted he found the Fountain of Youth and nothing more. Others scorn his claims simply because if he did why didn't it work on him.
In 1540, Spain sent members of The Society of Jesus to their Florida colony to investigate the Ponce de Leon claims and rumors. That expedition returns to Spain with a heavily cloaked small figure and soon after visiting the Vatican obtain Papal permission to establish a new order that included the Gray Monks.
Over seven decades later, Queen Elizabeth and her military advisers feel they can defeat the invincible Spanish Armada that is sailing towards England. However, the English are unprepared for the weapons of mass destruction that shoot eerie light beams of fire with uncanny accuracy. Led by the Gray Monk Father Jeronimo, who happens to be an extraterrestrial, the Spanish destroy the English fleet with ease due to their antimatter weapon, they call "St. Antony's Fire."
London burns while a desperate evacuation led by privateer Captain Thomas Winslow is hastily put together as the English are totally unprepared for defeat. Still on his vessel the Heron, Thomas safely takes Queen Elizabeth to the Virginia Colony. They soon meet nineteen-year-old colonist Virginia Dare named after Her Highness when she was born last year; subsequently the fleeing English also learn the fate of the vanished Roanoke colonists. Apparently last year they entered a portal to another world where they have been at war against Father Jeronimo's people the Grella for two decades.
The fun in this exciting action-packed alternate history story is with seeing what is happening to real people like the Queen, Sir Walter Raleigh, Virginia Dare, young William Shakespeare and the missing Roanoke colonists, etc. The exhilarating story line is fast-paced as one escapade leads to a new revelation while also setting up what seems to be a sequel.
Due to the events on the ground, at sea, and in the air on two worlds, none of the characters are fully developed although Thomas as the hero who saves the Queen and does much more is probably the most complete. On the other side is the Grella Father Jeronimo who has plans for the Old World and the New World while on his planet the war with the invading colonists continues. Thus it is the alternate history that grips the reader as Stephen White takes his audience on quite an entertaining sixteenth century tour.