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The Videssos Cycle, Volume II
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, 655 pages

Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. In 1977, he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA. In 1979, he published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight, under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson which he continued to use until 1985. In 1991, he left the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he worked as a technical writer, to become a full-time author. He won the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for "Down in the Bottomlands" and "Must and Shall" was nominated for both the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Harry Turtledove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Videssos Cycle, Volume I
SF Site Review: Atlantis and Other Places
SF Site Review: Hitler's War
SF Site Review: Give Me Back My Legions!
SF Site Review: Return Engagement
SF Site Review: Through the Darkness
SF Site Review: The Center Cannot Hold
SF Site Review: Ruled Britannia
SF Site Review: Colonization: Aftershocks
SF Site Review: Walk in Hell
SF Site Review: Darkness Descending
SF Site Review: American Front
SF Site Review: Household Gods with Judith Tarr
SF Site Review: Colonization: Second Contact
SF Site Review: Into the Darkness
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: Between the Rivers

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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The Videssos Cycle, Volume II Harry Turtledove's first major series under his own name was The Videssos Cycle, originally published in four volumes in 1987. Del Rey has recently re-released the books in a two volume trade paperback edition. The second volume includes the novels The Legion of Videssos and Swords of the Legion. Putting these two books in a single volume reinforces the structural differences between them and the first two novels in the series.

When The Videssos Cycle, Volume I ended, the characters, who were brought to the Byzantine-inspired world of Videssos from our own late Republican Roman period had just split up after several years of acclimatizing themselves to their new world and political system. This split allowed Turtledove not only to show his readers more of the world, but also provided him with the opportunity to look at the world through differing points of view. In Videssos the City (and eventually as far afield as Mashiz, the capital of Videssos's enemy, Yezd, Turtledove stuck with the Tribune Marcus Scaurus. Outside of Videssos, the reader is treated to the Celt Viridovix and the Greek Gorgidas looking at the various steppe cultures of the Khamorth and Arshaum.

In the earlier volume, the war that is raging between Videssos and Yezd occasionally falls by the wayside as Turtledove focuses his attention on Scaurus's own story, especially when Scaurus is not on the front lines. By increasing the viewpoints, even when Gorgidas and Viridovix are traveling together, Turtledove is able to demonstrate how broad the war really is. The vast battles on the plains are balanced by the raiding skirmishes in the Videssian hinterlands, leading to a question of how Yezd is able to mobilize so many men, a question which receives an oblique answer when Turtledove eventually depicts an encounter between Scaurus, Avshar, and Wulghash, Khagan of Yezd.

With religion, especially the various distinctions of Phos and Skotos worship based out of Videssos is important to the politics of Turtledove's worlds. In this volume, Turtledove adds depictions of numerous other religious ideas, adding as much depth to his world as any of the political or social systems. The Makuraner belief in the Four Prophets and the Vaspurakaner religion both are given more depth. Turtledove also returns to religious plot elements introduced earlier in the series, from the role of Balsamon as Patriarch of Phos to the difficulties caused by the Holier than Thou Zemarkhos, who took over the Vaspurakaner city of Amorion and tried to impose his own version of Phos worship on them.

The Videssos Cycle, Volume II includes the volumes that really set the books apart from many fantasy series. Turtledove's use of history to help create his background and the variety of cultures he depicts gives Videssos a complex feel to it, with the indication that there is wide variety in the world, even with the places which are not visited by his characters. In the years since Turtledove published The Videssos Cycle, despite publishing several fantasy and science fiction novels, he has become best known for his alternate histories. The Videssos Cycle is a reminder of his roots and ability when writing in the realm of fantasy.

Copyright © 2013 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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