DIVINITY'S TWILIGHT: REBIRTH by Christopher Russell, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DIVINITY'S TWILIGHT: REBIRTH by Christopher Russell, Review

Alexander Wallace visits Lozaria.
I met a number of people at DISCON III; I’ve already talked about several of the more famous authors, as well as Richmond area author JC Kang. Another person I was fortunate enough to meet was a writer from Williamsburg, Virginia (where I went to college) and now lives near Charlottesville. His name is Christopher Russell; he persuaded me to buy his debut novel Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth at his table in the dealer’s room, and I am glad to say that it was well worth the expense.

This book is something of a potpourri of different historical influences. The opening section is set some time before the rest of the book, and it feels like your typical medieval fantasy. There is then a time skip, when the results of the events of the first section have been given time to really reverberate. This world in the later period has steampunk influence, as you might see from the cover art. It has airships and tanks (called ‘panzcraft,’ which serve a government with many German-sounding names, wearing its influences on its sleeve), but people still wear chainmail. It’s a bit of an odd mix, especially if you can parse the historical sources of his creations, but it works.

Russell is very good at making you care about his characters. It’s something of a typical motley crew of the fantasy genre, written in a way that makes you forget their long pedigrees. They’re a fun bunch, and they play off of each other well.

Russell is also good at showing the horror of war. This is a military fantasy; many of your characters start out at a military academy; their training is interrupted when an enemy lets slip the dogs of war without any warning. His combat is exhilarating, with both quiet insurgency and large-scale slugfests between massive flying navies. The latter are particularly special, as you can almost feel the floor shaking beneath you.

One of the more subtle things I appreciated is the Christian influence on the book. In his introduction, among many friends and family, he thanks Jesus Christ. He does not preach, but those with some familiarity with the religion will notice the influence. The prologue concerns three brothers fighting among each other, whose descendants later lead distinct political units; one could consider it a darker take on the Twelve Tribes of Israel (being descended from the sons of Jacob). More deeply, there’s an undertone of spiritual humanists being placed against a marauding, soulless modernity, reminiscent of C. S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, Cy Kellet’s Ad Limina, and Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. You could also compare it to what Martin Luther King once said:
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

(I concede I learned of that quote through Civilization V)
Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth is perhaps not the most original fantasy novel, but it is one that I very much enjoyed. It exemplifies the best of the tradition of epic fantasy, and I recommend it to anyone looking for another read in that vein.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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