The United States of Europe, the new nation formed by an alliance between the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus and the West Virginians hurled back in time by a cosmic accident—the Ring of Fire—is beset by enemies on all sides. The U.S.E. needs a reliable source of opiates for those wounded in action, as well as other goods not available in Europe. The Prime Minister of the U.S.E., Mike Stearns, sends a mission to the Mughal Empire of India with the aim of securing a trade deal with the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan.
The mission consists of a mixed group of up-timers and down-timers, including paramedics, a squad of soldiers with railroad-building experience, a spy and a pair of swindlers. On reaching India the mission finds a grieving emperor obsessed with building the Taj Mahal, harem-bound princesses, warrior princes, and an Afghan adventurer embroiled in the many plots of the Mughal court.
The emperor’s sons are plotting against each other and war is brewing with the newly risen Sikh faith. But in the midst of these intrigues, the U.S.E. mission finds a ally: the brilliant and beautiful Jahanara Begum, the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan. She is the mistress of her father's harem and a power in her own right, who wishes to learn more of these women who are free in a way she can scarcely comprehend.
When the Emperor learns of what befalls his empire and children in the time that was, he makes every effort to change their fate. But emperors, princesses, and princes are no more immune to the inexorable waves of change created by the Ring of Fire than are the Americans themselves.
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Customer ReviewsSee All
Who knew I liked historical fiction?
When I previously considered purchasing alternative history/historical fiction, I thought of dusty tropes and strange dialects. It didn't interest me in the least. I sure am thankful that I took the time to pick up this book though. It was incredible! Let me tell you, without spoiling much; this book involves time travel, mercenaries, hill-billies, ancient India, and even Star Trek jokes. Eric Flint and Griffin Barber also prove that you can tell pretty historically accurate timelines and still get wicked with your plotlines. The action in this book plays out as it would in blockbuster films, and lord is there a lot of it. Plus there are some detailed moments of intrigue that I would have never considered occurring. For instance, a harem is not just a place just filled with sexy women; you won't find that tired cliche in this book. I can also tell you that a harem is also NOT neutral ground.
Which brings me to another point, the women in this story are strong and every bit as brutal as the men when they need to be. This book is also a fascinating look at the caste system of India.
I had never read any of the Grantville books, but I'm glad I started with this one, and the end of it had me looking up details about a throne I'd never heard of... I shouldn't say anymore, and I am worried I might have spoiled it already for myself by googling history but, whatever. I guess it's just a testament to how good this book was.