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21 August 2011

1634:The Bavarian Crisis by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce.
Published BAEN SF (hc-2007, pb-2009) Reviewer Lyn McConchie.
I keep waiting for this series to fall over, others of the same type have done so, and this series has immensely complicated story lines, with a massive cast of characters, and spreads over politics, (incredibly entangled) practical considerations, (confusing) and masses of ordinary people who are caught up in it all (bewildered.)
The books tend to the tome too. It isn’t that I mind that, but you have to be very good to sustain a reader’s interest over 1,000 pages of book. Let it be known that thus far they’ve managed that for me at least.
However as I started reading I was initially worried about this one. Effectively this volume is a continuation of 633 and I liked that, but the blurb was very non-committal not really surprising I suppose. It’s virtually impossible to sum up a book like thisstoryline in a paragraph. But the blurb made no attempt to try. However I bought it and dived in.
It was then, maybe 50 pages in that I started to wonder if this was going to be the book that fell over. I wasn’t been drawn in as I usually am. It was okay, but not great. I kept reading. And around page 150+ I found that I was becoming engrossed. I chuckled aloud at some events, nodded at political points, turned back to check something, and dived back in again avidly. I read all day, half the night and shut the book around 1.30am still smiling. Oh yes, this is a good book!
I can only note two flaws, one mechanical it seems to be badly put together. The spine broke as I read the paperback (possibly because 1014 pages isn’t small) perhaps also because in the section where it broke, that portion appears to have been printed right to the edge of the page in error and hence may not have been inlaid correctly when the volumes were bound.
The other flaw is the slow start. I am a very fast reader. My standard fiction-reading speed was measured in a study in the early 1970s, as 600 words per minute. And even at that speed I’d reading each word, not skipping. So the slow start to this book meant it took me just over an hour before I was into the good stuff. I can live with that, but many who read far more slowly may not persevere. Mind you, they’ll be missing something, but they may choose to do so.
And the theme? Well, you could probably say that this book is about Maria Anna, Archduchess of Austria, and all the political discussions, decisions, and controversy that swirl about her proposed marriage to her uncle. Some of the described events had me laughing aloud, there were some great moments, and very human ones, and in the end when I put the book down I felt as if I’d eaten a large satisfying meal. I wanted to wander off and digest it.
So, 1634:The Bavarian Crisis upholds the honor of the series, and I really recommend it. I just suggest that IF you can afford it, if as I am – you are keeping the books in the series to reread many times, then buy the hardcover. It’ll be much better value. I don’t think my paperback will stand up to more than two readings before it comes to bits in my hands and I didn’t find that value for the money.

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