HAMMER AND ANVIL
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In some ways, Hammer and Anvil, the second book of the Time of Troubles series, is a typical Harry Turtledove Videssos novel. In other ways, this novel is a departure from what Turtledove has written before.
Hammer and Anvil begins about six years after the events recounted in The Stolen Throne. Iinstead of continuing the story of Abivard, who helped place return the Makuraner King of Kings Sharbaraz to his throne, Turtledove begins this novel at the opposite end of the world. Maniakes the Elder was sent by the Avtokrator Likinios to serve as his governor on the island of Kalavria after he and his son, Maniakes the Younger, helped Abivard accomplish his goal in The Stolen Throne. Likinios' successor, the usurper Genesios, elected to leave the two Maniakes in their governorship/exile. As a result, the two men missed the worst of the purges Genesios inflicted on Videssos the City.
When a collection of fleeing Videssian nobles arrive at Kalavria, the elder Maniakes turns down their petition to lead a rebellion against Genesios. Many such rebels have died over the past six years and Maniakes has no desire to wear the imperial red boots. The younger Maniakes, however, has no compunction about taking on the mantle of Avtokrator.
The novel is typical of Turtledove in his portrayal of Maniakes. The character is an intelligent and capable man who sets out to do good as he sees it. Maniakes is willing to listen to dissenting opinion without allowing his own feelings to cloud his judgement. In many ways, Maniakes is the same as Abivard from the previous novel, Krispos from the Krispos trilogy, or any other of a number of Turtledovian main characters.
Where the novel departs from being typical of Turtledove's writings are the circumstances Maniakes finds himself in. During a conversation about the novel The Two Georges, Turtledove commented that he knew Thomas Bushnell was not entirely his own creation when Bushnell did not act as a Turtledove character when put into a specific situation. He went on to comment that anyone who reads much Turtledove knows how one of his characters will act in any given circumstances. Only one previous Turtledove character saw as much bad luck as Maniakes sees. Both Jens Larssen (Worldwar Series) and Maniakes could be Turtledove's answer to Job. Unlike Larssen, Maniakes does not entirely lose faith in his world, thus giving the lie to Turtledove's comment.
After initial successes in his battle against Genesios, Maniakes finds that no matter what he does, things do not go properly for him. If Maniakes plans for an ambush, when the ambush comes it will be bigger and more treacherous than he thought possible. If Maniakes protects himself from plots in one quarter, they will appear in another quarter. Although he always seems to be taking the correct actions and precautions, it seems as if some force (Phos, Skotots, the God, Turtledove?) is out to get Maniakes.
In addition to being at war with Genesios, Maniakes finds himself fighting Etzilios, the khagan of the Kubratoi, Sharbaraz, who Maniakes helped set on the throne of Makuran, and Abivard, who Maniakes would rather befriend than fight. At one point, Abivard asks Maniakes a strange question. Only after Maniakes gives him the wrong reply does he realize that the question must have been part of a prophecy Abivard once heard. Despite that, Maniakes can't set the misunderstanding right.
The end of the novel, demonstrates, more than The Stolen Throne that Hammer and Anvil is not the end of a series. We finish the book with Maniakes and his cousin, Rhegarios, on campaign, hoping Phos' light will shine on them in the future, but worried that their past luck will continue.
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