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Kalvan Kingmaker
John F. Carr
Pequod Press, 461 pages

Kalvan Kingmaker
John F. Carr
John F. Carr has long been associated with the work of H. Beam Piper, editing four anthologies of Piper's stories (Federation, Empire, Paratime, and The Worlds of H. Beam Piper) and co-authoring the authorized sequel (Great Kings' War) to Piper's only Paratime novel (Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen).

John F. Carr Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

John F. Carr has set himself a difficult task with the novel Kalvan Kingmaker, and it is one at which he is only partly successful. The novel is a continuation of the Lord Kalvan stories written by H. Beam Piper. These tales, which grew out of Piper's Paratime Police stories, follow a Pennsylvania state trooper into a world in which North America was colonized from west to east and only bears a geographical resemblance to the North America of our own world. Carr does an excellent job of capturing Piper's style and stories in his world, but...

...but Kalvan Kingmaker is not just a sequel to Piper's widely-read stories. It is also the sequel to Carr's own continuation, Great King's War (written with Roland Green). Because Great King's War sets up the action for Kalvan Kingmaker and has been out of print for more than a decade, much of Kalvan Kingmaker is spent providing some of the information readers need in order to follow the labyrinthine plots in the novel.

Carr focuses his attention on several different characters, ranging from Kalvan, now Great King of Hos-Hostigos, to Soton, Great Master of Styphon and Kalvan's nemesis, to Verkan Vall, Kalvan's friend and chief of the Paratime Police. Carr's focus shifts abruptly between these and other characters, setting numerous plots into motion, but occasionally confusing the action and making it difficult to follow specific aspects of the plot.

With his large cast, characterization is not particularly important in Kalvan Kingmaker, for the story is being driven by the political forces which are drawing Hos-Hostigos and the priests of Styphon into another round of their war of extermination. However, while Carr does focus on the macrocauses of the war, he provides the reader with hints of much more intriguing actions, hopefully to be expanded upon in future novels (Kalvan Kingmaker is followed by Siege of Tarr-Hostigos). Foremost among these hints seems to be a forthcoming power struggle between those who use the priesthood of Styphon for political purposes and those who actually feel a sense of piety to the deity.

Carr's grasp on Piper's material is exemplary, and his (and Green's) additions to the world Piper created. The world as presented in Kalvan Kingmaker is both complex and logical. Similarly, it manages to retain a tenuous tie to our own world and its one-time political structures while still seeming alien as a world which diverged so far in the past should.

While Kalvan Kingmaker isn't entirely satisfying (it suffers too much from middle-book syndrome), its promises hook the reader in, wondering whether Carr will focus his attention more on some of the backroom Byzantine machinations which are hinted at in the book. Fortunately for the reader, Siege of Tarr-Hostigos is already available and Carr is (apparently) hard at work on yet another Kalvan novel.

Copyright © 2004 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). 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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