The first novel in a brand-new alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president for a second time right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America's back.
1916. The Great War rages overseas, and the whole of Europe, Africa, and western Asia is falling to the Central Powers. To win a war that must be won, Teddy Roosevelt, once again the American president, turns to his top secret Black Chamber organization--and its cunning and deadly spy, Luz O'Malley Aróstegui.
On a transatlantic airship voyage, Luz poses as an anti-American Mexican revolutionary to get close--very close--to a German agent code-named Imperial Sword. She'll need every skill at her disposal to get him to trust her and lead her deep into enemy territory. In the mountains of Saxony, concealed from allied eyes, the German Reich's plans for keeping the U.S. from entering the conflict are revealed: the deployment of a new diabolical weapon upon the shores of America...
Prolific fantasist Stirling (the Emberverse series) packs a mighty wallop in this high-spirited alternate WWI history, starring redoubtable Cuban-Irish-American heroine Luz O'Malley Ar stegui. It's 1916, and Luz's honorary uncle, Teddy Roosevelt, is president. Adrenaline-charged Luz, a secret agent of the CIA-like Black Chamber, sails the Atlantic on a sumptuous dirigible, inveigling herself into the arms of handsome German spy Baron Horst von D ckler so she can pry out information about Germany's horrifying plot to prevent America from entering the war. Throughout, Luz utilizes the prevailing underestimation of women to efficiently dispose of Parisian street fighters, demolish a German professor's interpretation of Nietzsche, pilfer the German plans, and endure two weeks on a U-boat with Horst and lissome Ciara, Luz's other romantic interest. Sterling's lavish historical, linguistic, and cultural detail including sly digs at real-life figures, such as a youthful J. Edgar Hoover enhance well-rounded characters to make this a highly enjoyable espionage romp.
Not quite 5
A great read and an imaginative alternate history, but I really couldn’t give it five stars for two reasons:
1. The last 100 or so pages was devoted to Luz & Ciera’s wardrobe, budding love affair, and the family villa where it will be consummated. I was reminded of the trashy overheated novellas that pre-teen girls enjoy. I’d rather have read about the further adventures and fate of Horst von Duckler.
2. The author, ordinarily a thoroughgoing researcher, had Gen. Wood speak of awarding Luz & Ciera the ‘Congressional Medal of Honor’ had they been military members. Our nation’s highest military decoration is awarded by the President at the recommendation of the relevant armed service. Congress is not involved. Hence, it is called simply the Medal of Honor.
Mr. Starling has written alternate-universe stories before, and I have read them with great relish. In this book, he has surpassed himself. The plot and protagonist redefine derring-do, raising the bar quite a bit higher. I shan't include spoilers, but we see dirigibles (_The Peshawar Lancers_) again, Bad guys (some with moustaches, which they twirl), and that one-in-a-million chance which happens about every seventh time.
I got it as an eBook, but may buy a print copy to lend (with suitable security, of course) to VERY trusted friends.