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The Breath of God: A Tale of Adventure in the World Beyond    by Harry Turtledove order for
Breath of God
by Harry Turtledove
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Harry Turtledove, a recognized master of alternate history fantasies (for both adult and YA audiences), now brings readers The Breath of God, second (after Beyond the Gap) in his Opening of the World series.

In Beyond the Gap, Turtledove introduced us to the (Bronze Age) Raumsdalian Empire and (to their north) the proud, mammoth herding Bizogot tribes and a glacier barrier - which was melting and creating a passage. The Emperor's expedition to explore the gap included Count Hamnet Thyssen, Bizogot Jarl Trasamund, adventurer Ulric Skakki, wizard Audun Gilli, and young Bizogot shaman Liv (who became Hamnet's lover). In the glacial gap, they met the mammoth riding Rulers' army of conquest, aided by powerful sorcerors.

As The Breath of God opens, these heroes have been unable to persuade either the Empire or the Bizogots to take the coming threat seriously. So they do what they can, using magic to spy on the Rulers and to stir up the dire wolves to attack them. After they take another stand against the enemy - and are defeated once more - they escape by ascending the Glacier. At the very top they encounter humans (of Bizogot descent) living a precarious (and cannibalistic) existence on ice-free mountaintops.

They descend again with the help of shaman Marcovefa, whose magic turns out to be more powerful than that of the Rulers' sorcerors. They find that the Rulers have continued South decimating more Bizogot tribes en route. Their small party evades the invaders and journeys to the Empire's capital where Hamnet (already suffering from having loved and lost for a second time) is thrown in prison for telling a truth Emperor Sigvat does not want to hear.

He's released through the efforts of his friends, who accompany him north to rally Imperial forces against the invaders. They almost prevail - until a slingshot takes Marcovefa out of the battle. They escape to fight with Bizogot aid once more and have better success this time. Which is where the episode ends, on a note of hope. As Hamnet muses, 'when you had hope, what else did you need?' This World Beyond is an absorbing series and I look forward to more of the military/magical adventures of Hamnet and his comrades in arms.

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