Three Princes, by Ramona Wheeler

I received a free copy of this book to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 4 February 2014. 

17910119The critics, as far as I’ve seen, have not been kind to Ramona Wheeler’s Three Princes. But then, I rarely take my cue from them. I had a fun time reading about this version of earth in which the Egyptian and Roman empires joined up to conquer Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia. This is by no means a serious book. Rather, it reminded me of some king and country steampunk novels that have been published lately—though the author doesn’t try to replicate the racism and sexism of the original king and country novels of the nineteenth century.

Three Princes takes us on a whirl around a reimagined fin de siècle, opening in Novgorod and closing in the Cuzco. Lord Scott Oken is the fourth son of a British king, but works as an agent for pharaoh and his queen instead. As in our own nineteenth century, the Great Game is being played at full tilt. Victoria and Albert are scheming in Germany with Otto von Bismark. Incans and Mayas in the New World are protecting their trade secrets. Slavers snatch people off the streets to be sold in southeast Asia. There’s a lot going on just in the first few chapters. Wheeler does tend to overdescribe the scenery, I’ll admit. I can hardly blame her as the scenery is a fascinating blend of European and African architecture and culture.

As soon as Oken returns from his mission in Novgorod, he is sent to South America with his mentor, Prince Mikal Mabruke to investigate a plan to send a rocket to the moon. The pair are nearly assassinated and kidnapped several times on their journey and when they arrive, they land smack in the middle of a coup planned by the unhinged son of the Incan emperor. It’s all chases and escapes and derring do. As long as you don’t try to work out how Egypt and Rome managed to halt their terminal declines, you’ll have a great time.

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