Friday, September 10, 2021

Green Phoenix - 1634: The Bavarian Crisis

 1634 The Bavarian Crisis-Eric Flint.jpg

It's time once again for me to give yet another literary recommendation by going down the line for the next book in the Ring of Fire lineup. This time around, we are taking a look at a collaborative effort between head writer Eric Flint and co-author Virginia DeMarce, who also worked on several stories in the Grantville Gazettes and the anthology story, 1634: The Ram Rebellion (Which I will cover on a later article).

Released in 2007, 1634: The Bavarian Crisis was a sequel to Eric Flint's short story The Wallenstein Gambit from Ring of Fire I (A collection of anthology stories written by Flint and others), as well as continuing the story lines from 1634: The Ram Rebellion and 1634: The Baltic War. All in all, this book plays a fairly major role in setting up the state of politics in Central Europe during and immediately following the Ostend War first set up in 1633. The book also helps to set up several players that have been very big in the years following 1634, as the Emperor of Austria finally makes a big role and the presence of Bavaria as a major regional player against the USE begins with the outcome of this book.

This makes the reading of 1634: The Bavarian Crisis a rather important stepping stone for the rest of the franchise. Which is interesting given how much I'm not taken to DeMarce's particular writing style when all is said and done.

But I will cover that in the actual meat of the article. Speaking of which, let's get into it as we take a short look at 1634: The Bavarian Crisis.

***
  • Written by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce
  • Published by Baen Books
  • Available in Paperback, Hardback and E-Book on Amazon.com
  • 448 pages
***

REVIEW

1634: The Bavarian Crisis is, as stated in the intro segment of this article, a rather important book for developing the overall narrative threads for most of the series going forward from the year 1634. Explaining the plot is somewhat difficult to do concisely as the book is rather dense and somewhat dependent upon reading the first Grantville Gazette, Ring of Fire I, and being familiar with the goings-on in 1634: The Baltic War, even if these events are occurring mostly in the background.

The plot, as concisely as I can state it, deals with the Duke of Bavaria, Maximilian, who is a deeply abusive, violent, and crazed man desiring to remarry following the death of his wife. Reading history books that he acquired from the transplanted Americans in the United States of Europe. Seeing an opportunity to defeat the "heretical" Americans and Emperor Gustav II of Sweden, Maximilian makes a deal with Emperor Ferdinand II of Austria to marry his daughter Maria Anne of Austria, exactly like he did in the original timeline. When Maria hears of this, she learns that her fate in the original history was to have a short, miserable, and abused life as Maximilian's wife. Determined to avoid such a fate, Maria endeavors to flee the arrangement.
 
Along the way, she meets up with Mary Simpson, the wife of Admiral John Simpson of the USE Navy, Veronica Dreeson, grandmother of Gretchen Richter of the Committee of Correspondence, who are in the Upper Palatinate to deal with some legal inheritance issues from Veronica's first husband. Together the three find themselves into a politically dangerous situation as the "de facto" ruler of the Upper Palatinate is an opportunistic warlord and Maximilian's paranoia and insanity only grows when is betrothed goes missing. All the while, the Cardinal Infante of Spain who has been put in charge of most of the Netherlands is seeking an opportunity to distinguish himself from his Hapsburg relatives and forge a new identity for the Netherlands alongside the USE. And Maria Anne may very well solve his issue as well.

The book, despite being shorter than some of the other entries in the series, is actually a fairly dense book. It maintains the high standard of writing that I've come to expect from the Ring of Fire series, though it does contain some elements from Virginia DeMarce that I don't particularly care for. The truth is, I don't actually like DeMarce's work in the franchise when compared to David Weber. That's not to say that I hate her writing style or can't read her work, its simply not to my taste.

The reason for this stems largely from DeMarce's tendency towards long-winded and complicated family lineages and drama, especially involving complicated legal proceedings. This stems from her PhD in history and the fact that she is an expert in European genealogy. While this enables an incredibly grounded and realistic portrayal of the 17th century that would be necessary for well-established alternate history, it also tends to make her work somewhat or incredibly dry. While this isn't nearly a problem here as it is in 1635: The Dreeson Incident or 1634: The Ram Rebellion, both of which were incredibly hard to actually get through, its still present here.

And this is kind of a shame because The Bavarian Crisis is an incredibly important event in terms of its impact on Europe, despite not really figuring any of the usual major players in a major capacity. The strength of the Ring of Fire series has always lied in its ability to make the world feel larger than just a single cast of characters. Events are always moving in the world, whether are main characters and major players are moving them or not. It ensures a living, breathing, and ever changing world that is unlike most other series that I have read.

Honestly, the issues with this book lie predominantly in the fact that I personally am not a fan of DeMarce's writing style, or at least I often find it difficult to get myself invested in the large cast of minor characters and how their specific minute interactions all play into one another. The fact that a large portion of this book is largely built on the precise minutia of medieval or Early Modern European legal codes and inheritance  proceedings makes it the occasional slog. But if you are invested in the overall world, its much easier to get into The Bavarian Crisis then some of the other works with DeMarce at the helm, at least with the immediate promise of larger actions hinted at in other works in the franchise.

 FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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