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» » Land of Hope and Glory

Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson

Land of Hope and Glory
Land of Hope and Glory
Geoffrey Wilson
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1696 kb
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1404 kb
Hodder & Stoughton; 1st edition (December 1, 2011)
378 pages
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Science Fiction & Fantasy
An original new fantasy in which The Indian Rebellion of 1857 takes place in a very different England—one where magic rules, and the only hope for the future lies in the story of King Arthur
  • Ces
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: When I first heard of this book via a review request, I was a bit surprised that I had missed out on this book when it was released last year. Being an Indian, I was utterly fascinated to read about the uprising premise of the plot with the positions being reversed for the English and Indians. A bit of background is required for those not so well averse with Indian history. This event was a big one in the history of India and marked a turning point in its occupation by England. Firstly it marked the general unrest in the country and showed a united effort by soldiers of the Indian army irrespective of caste, creed and religion to overthrow their masters; the English East India Company, secondly it showed the English aristocracy that they would have to be more involved in the ruling of this country.

The revolt was primarily caused by a particular insistence of the British army superiors to their Indian soldiers that they had to chew out their cartridges in the loading of their rifles. The biggest anathema to both the Hindu and Muslim soldiers was that the cartridge was covered with grease from either cows or pigs, the former considered holy by Hindus and the latter being considered gross by Muslims. The officer's insistence and the soldiers' refusal to follow their superior's orders compiled with the overall anti-British feelings lead to a revolt in major parts of north and central India. The revolt was ultimately unsuccessful however it showed the British that they had to tread carefully with the religious feelings of their subjects.

The bones of this story are then taken by Geoffrey Wilson and rather carefully constructed to give us a world wherein the Rajthanan Empire from India has conquered many parts of the world and like the Roman Empire previously, has now colonized England. The Rajthanan Empire is most likely a synonym for the area known as Rajputana or as it's currently known as Rajasthan. They have discovered the means to a power called Sattva nearly eight hundred years ago and since then have managed to overthrow the Mughal Empire in India. Since then they have also taken over many parts of the known world and now are exploring the new world.

Amidst all their explorations they have also conquered England and Wales nearly a hundred years ago. The rest of the continental Europe previously was under Muslim Caliphate rule and England was the only country to rebuff their advances under the rule of King Edward. It is not clear how much of continental Europe is under the rule of the Rajthanan Empire but its safe to presume that majority of the area would be under their rule. Currently there have been small mutterings against the Rajthanans and their rule over the English people and a person called the Ghost has been leading a group of soldiers all over the countryside looting army posts and generally calling for the overthrow of the Rajthanan rule.

Jack Casey is the protagonist of the story and an ex-soldier who has seen one too many wars and now wants nothing to do it. He leads a decent lifestyle and supports his young daughter by serving as a man Friday for Shri Goyanor in Dorsetshire. He is competent and is looked upon favorably by his employer, destiny however has other plans for him as he is soon lead back to the thick of things in regards to the uprisings when his previous military superior and the person who taught him the ways to utilize Sattva, asks him for a favor. Captain Jhala needs Jack because of his tracking skills and his past ties however Jack is reluctant to go back. Jack's hand is forced as his daughter Elizabeth has been captured assisting the rebels and now is due to be executed unless he helps them against the rebels. Thus begins Jack's dilemma as he is torn between the love for his progeny and his duty towards his friends and comrades. What ultimately follows will be a test for Jack as well as the English in their fight to determine their destiny.

I have to say I was very very impressed by Geoffrey Wilson's debut effort. Often in alternate history books, authors don't give enough explanations for the change in history and the world however in this book the author has neatly created a world wherein a province of India has become a superpower through the power of the mind, yoga and Sattva. It has lead to the creation of machines called sattva avatars and the plot very well showcases sattva-punk and its ramifications. The author's imagination takes some wild jumps in regards to sattva-punk and it was fascinating to see the author's creations. The story begins with the reader not knowing much about the world but the author skillfully inserts information without overt info-dumping. The story has quite some pace to it, not in the first part though which is used to build up the character and world situation but in the second part of the story wherein everything is set against the clock and Jack Casey has to finish his tasks to save his daughter.

Characterization is something which always helps make or mar a book, in this one we get a strong sense of who Jack Casey is and what he is capable of. Jack is an honorable man forced to do dishonorable things however the readers gets a keen insight into his thought process and the mental turmoil he undergoes in trying to save his daughter and do his dharma to his country. The book's pace and action filled climax add to the book's excellence but the icing on the cake is its very twisted climax and kudos to the author for giving the reader such an enjoyable but unpredictable read. This is the first book of a series and the way it ends I'm very curious to see where the author takes the story next as he's contracted for two more books set in this world.

However amid all the rosy parts, there were a couple of places where I thought that the author could have done better namely in the usage of certain Indian/Hindi words such as "Purusha" and "Prakriti" which mean male and nature respectively but were used in the context of spirit and matter which doesn't translate precisely. Secondly I would loved to read a timeline of the events preceding the contents of the story recording the spread of the Rajthanan Empire and this is just me but I'm a sucker for maps so I would have loved to see Europe and Asia in the context of this world. These small things however will not detract anything from the overall read and for most readers it depends on their individual preferences.

CONCLUSION: Land of Hope and Glory is an exciting debut featuring a protagonist that struggles to do the right thing. Amidst the many alternate history books published so far, its the only one that brings to the fore a crucial incident in the history of the Indian subcontinent. Reversing the details and setting it in a new country makes the story completely unpredictable and marks this debut as a gem to watch out for. Geoffrey Wilson has to be lauded for his imagination and storytelling skills; do check out this book to know more about the travails of the people from the Land of Hope and Glory.
  • lets go baby
I first came across this as a hardback, it looked interesting, but when I looked it up for some reviews, they were sadly lacking. So I made a note and waited for the paperback, and I am amazed that it looks like I am writing the first review.

Author Geoffrey Wilson must be very frustrated because what he has delivered here is rather good. It's an alternative history, with a bit of magic thrown in so it does border on fantasy.
Set in 1852 it is the Indian Empire that has expanded into Europe and through use of magic, power and technology pretty much rule everywhere. This is true in what we know as England, although there is rebellion brewing. Retired (and wounded) soldier Jack Casey is forced to help track down the rebels (or his daughter will hang). And Casey has a bit of magic too, it may help him or it may kill him....

Loads of interesting ideas in here but a story that does not rely on heroic individuals or fantastic magical powers, Jack is a bit of an everyman trying to survive in order to save his daughter. The politics and rebellion happen around him as we come to understand the alternative world the author has placed us in. The book is rich in detail which hints at how this history has changed things (peasants in the pub drinking ale and using hookah pipes) without trying to be too clever or in your face. This subtle approach works really well to help us enjoy the revised framework within which the story is placed. The story itself is well structured, fast paced and very enjoyable.

I hope more people discover this book because it is very much worth it.
  • Chi
Land of Hope and Glory is an alternate history fantasy novel, in which the tables are turned on the British Empire. Instead of the Brits colonising India and a large part of the rest of the world, the Rajthanans, a people from the Indian sub-continent, conquer large parts of the world, including England and Wales. It is an intriguing premise: what would a world look like where Christianity and Western culture as we know it aren't the focal point of world development? Added to this is an extra element of differentiation: What if these conquerors had magic? While the switch is expertly done and the story quite interesting, I had issues with the book, mostly concerning its pacing and the amount of the world that is revealed.

To start with the first point, I found that the narrative dragged in several places, especially in the chapters after Jack is given his mission to capture the Ghost, his former army comrade turned rebel leader. He sets off to chase The Ghost and his men and that chase just seemed to go on and on. Similarly, there comes a point when Jack is in London trying to get to The Ghost that the story almost crawls to a halt and I just felt impatient to get on with it. As for the amount of the world that is revealed, that might not be a flaw as much as me wanting more than the author was ready to give. I would have liked a bit more of a world view: How large is the empire; did they get overseas territories, if so which ones; did they takeover all of Europe; are there any other superpowers? Instead world building is kept to a minimum, that is to say we only learn about the world in as much as Jack encounters or remembers it and that is largely constrained to England. The world building that is there is intricate and well-done, I was just left with a lot questions.

On the other hand, the development of the steam-and-sorcery based industrialisation and mechanisation of warfare is fascinating, as is the magic system based on sattva, yantra and the influences of ancient Hindu philosophies. I loved that Wilson goes against the more common take that if a society has magic, industrialisation is superfluous in a sense and thus less likely to happen. The integration of magic and machinery into an almost organic, living whole was fabulous and completely creepy. The avatars in all their guises freaked me out, not in the least as they all take the forms of insects and crustaceans, which I think are creepy critters anyway. The scenes in the mill, where we learn more about the avatars, were some of the strongest in the book and I really liked this aspect of Wilson's magic.

The book's protagonist, Jack, is a sympathetic character, even if he annoyed me at times. I hated his resignation to the situation at times; instead of deciding to do things his own way, he tries to play by the rules and expects the others to do the same, which of course they never do. His unwanted-but-unavoidable companions Saleem and Charles actually served to make him think about the Rajthanans and their actions, which I really liked. Over the course of the novel Jack's character moves from being disillusioned with the army's rigidity and adherence to unfair rules, thinking them inherent to the institution rather than instituted by the Rajthanans, to being disillusioned with the Rajthanans and their worldview. I loved the little details Wilson slipped into his characters, such as Saleem looking pretty much Irish, even though he is a Mohammedan, and the French calling Jack Ros Porc instead of Ros Beef, as, having been captured and converted by the Moors, the French are Mohammedans and do not eat pork.

Land of Hope and Glory may have some slow-moving parts, but the action scenes - like those in the mills and later the siege - were superb, frightening and disorienting, leaving the reader in no doubt that warfare in this alternate continuity is just as inglorious as it is in ours. The ending held promise and despite my issues with this first instalment, I enjoyed my time spent within its pages. I'm interested in seeing where Wilson will take Jack next in the second book of this series, The Place of Dead Kings, which was published in October. Land of Hope and Glory is a solid debut with appeal for both historical fiction readers and fantasy readers alike.

This book was provided for review by the author.