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Beyond the Gap: A Novel of the Opening of the World    by Harry Turtledove order for
Beyond the Gap
by Harry Turtledove
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Beyond the Gap, Harry Turtledove begins a new alternate history series. To the north of the (Bronze Age) Raumsdalian Empire are the proud, nomadic, mammoth herding Bizogot tribes and a glacier barrier. The Emperor calls Count Hamnet Thyssen to his capital of Nidaros, where Bizogot Jarl Trasamund has journeyed to inform them of a newly formed, narrow gap in the glacier, that allows access to the lands beyond.

The Emperor sends an expedition to find out what's on the other side and in particular to search for the mythic Golden Shrine. As well as Hamnet, Trasamund and Imperial soldiers, the groups includes sly adventurer Ulric Skakki, Audun Gilli (a grieving, often drunken wizard), and sixty-ish scholar/nobleman Eyvind Torfinn, who's married to Gudrid, the spoiled promiscuous woman who betrayed and left Hamnet, but can still push every one of his buttons. They haven't journeyed far when Gudrid joins them, having cajoled the Emperor into ordering her participation - to torment Hamnet, he presumes.

When they reach Trasamund's tribe, they're joined by the attractive young Bizogot shaman Liv, who gradually forms a relationship with Hamnet, changing him from an embittered mysoginist to a man in love with someone who is his match for the first time. There are many dangers from winter weather to dire wolves as they travel north and into the Gap. Then they meet the mammoth riding Rulers, who view all others as their inferiors, have powerful sorcerors, and plan conquest. After talking their way out of the Rulers' encampment and dealing with magical spies, the travelers return south.

Unfortunately, neither the Bizogot nomads nor the Emperor take the coming threat seriously, leaving a small group of heroes to take on a powerful foe on their own. Beyond the Gap begins what looks like a fairly typical fantasy quest/clash of cultures. What interested me most in it, though, were the credible details and the strong contrasts between nomadic and settled societies, as seen through the eyes of members of both groups. It will be interesting to see this series develop, as the good guys fight the Rulers and continue their search for the Golden Shrine.

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