TWO CROWNS FOR AMERICA
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Katherine Kurtz, best known for her Deryni novels, has taken a break from chronicling the Kingdom of Gwynnedd to turn her attention to the American Revolution. While most Science Fiction novels set during an historical period are either Alternate History or inject magic into our world, Two Crowns for America is a secret history. Every event which occurs in the novel could have occured and what we know about the period would not be changed. In this case, Kurtz injects a certain amount of Masonic plotting to the events leading up to the Revolutionary War.
For Kurtz, the Revolutionary War was the fourth attempt to remove the Hanovarians from the throne and replace them with the rightful Stuart monarchs. The first three attempts, in 1715, 1719 and 1745 were centered in the British Isles and failed. The supporters of the Stuarts used their Freemasonry lodges to guide the American colonists in the fourth attempt to replace the Stuarts. Masonic magic is available in the world Kurtz portrays. Prophetic dreams come to George Washington to prepare him for his role in the war. Joseph Warren, after being killed during the Battle of Breed's Hill is able to communicate with Mason Simon Wallace, a staunch supporter of the Charles Edward Stuart who had been named to the Order of the Thistle by the Scottish Pretender.
The plot of Two Crowns for America is slow to get underway. In the opening chapters, Washington receives his commission and travels, along with Simon Wallace, to Massachusetts. During these early sequences, Kurtz is busy laying groundwork for how her Masons function in the world and what their agenda is. As a result, both plot and characterization suffer.
The novel begins to pick up pace with Andrew Wallace's revelation to his son, Simon, that the Masons have already offered the American Crown to Charles Edward Stuart. The Pretender has agreed to send a cousin as emissary to the colonies in order to give the rebels a concrete cause to fight for. Although the plot may pick up a triffle at this point, it still hardly moves faster than a snail's pace.
One of Kurtz's strengths in the Deryni novels is her ability to describe, in extremely realistic detail, ritual events. This skill gets a work out in a book which deals with the highly ritualistic world of the masons. Nevertheless, I found much of the ritual description to be someone tedious and redundant. I think this has less to do with Kurtz's writing abilities and style than it has to do with the fact the I've never been a big fan of conspiracy theories.
Although Kurtz focusses on the small clan of Masons which make up her fictitious Wallace family, she does saturate the novel with a wide variety of historical figures, from George Washington and Benjamin Franklin to Charles Edward Stuart. One of the historical figures which she makes use of is the enigmatic Comte de Saint Germain, placing him in a much more realistic role than Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. While Yarbro's St. Germain spent the later eighteenth century in Paris fighting against dark conspiracies, Kurtz's St. Germain, who also hints at having lived an exceptionally long time, lies at the heart of dark conspiracies.
Although I generally enjoy reading Kurtz, Two Crowns for America is not one of her better novels. Her characters are not as likeable, realistic or interesting as she has proven herself capable of drawing. Her plot tends to meander instead of showing the intricacies she has generated in her other works.
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